4 Jun 2007

CNMI senator says wage hike not to blame for collapse in garment industry

6:38 am on 4 June 2007

A senator in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas says the federal minimum wage rise can't be blamed for the expected collapse of the garment industry, whose workers earn the bare minimum.

She says she supports moves by the U.S. Congress to raise the U.S minimum wage from $3.05 an hour to $7.25.

In CNMI, the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents in two months and 50 cents every year following until local wages have reached the federal wage rate.

Senator Maria Pangelinan says the wage rise is great news, because the cost of living is steadily rising, but minimum wage earnings haven't changed.

"We use the garment industry as an excuse that is no longer an issue at this point. Y'know the competition from emerging nations where wages are sometimes only 1 dollar per day, is probably more than our nation can endure, even if the minimum wages doesn't increase. And the cost of living here has been steadily rising over the past 10 years and so the minimum wage earner at the bottom of the scale is experiencing less buying power."

Senator Maria Pangelinan says there has been widespread concern from the Governor and the private sector about declining garment sales since 2005, when a World Trade organisation ruling opened up the U.S. market to competition from other countries.