Casino commission tells Imperial Pacific to address workers’ concerns

THE Commonwealth Casino Commission says Imperial Pacific International should be concerned about the situation of their contractors’ workers who are staging protests over unpaid wages.

During a board meeting on Wednesday at the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, the commissioners told IPI legal counsel Charles McDonalds that the controversy is tarnishing the casino investor’s reputation.

Commissioner Alvaro Santos said IPI should talk to their contractors who, he added, should be in compliance with the law.

Federal authorities have said many of the contractors’ construction workers arrived here as tourists.

According to Santos, this issue will adversely affect the China visa-waiver program and the islands’ tourism industry as a whole.

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“Talk to your contractors and subcontractors,” he told McDonalds. “Even if it’s the contractors that are being negligent, they will always implicate IPI and blame IPI, and that’s not good as it will hurt the reputation of the company and…the government…. Take action, and calm down those people. Tell the contractors to follow the provisions of the contract. You have to be concerned also because this is a tiny community.”

He added, “We are asking for an increase in the CW cap, but with this kind of negative publicity, it will affect us, the entire CNMI. You should go out of your way to remind the contractors to comply with the law because the Chinese waiver might also be affected by this negative issue.”

McDonalds said they’ve had a meeting with the contractors who assured IPI that the workers will be paid and repatriated.

“We are very concerned about the actions of our contractors, and have asked them what’s going on with the concerns of the protesters. They assured us that their employees are getting paid and they are working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and [the Department of Labor] to address all the employees’ concerns and send them back home.

“We are taking this issue seriously. We respect each and everyone’s opinion. This crisis is very unfortunate, but our best way to rectify it is to fast-track the construction project and that’s why we are focusing on finishing the casino so we can prove to everyone that we are here to stay and are committed to the CNMI and to this industry.”

Commission Chairman Juan Sablan said they don’t want to “alarm” Washington, D.C.

“This may hamper the CW cap issue and it’s not only IPI that will be affected, but other businesses as well, and it will also affect the entire economy. The commission is not taking this issue lightly. People are asking, Where is the commission? What are they doing? We are very concerned. We’re doing our job, and we are doing the best we can. This is a very serious issue and the governor, the Legislature and our U.S. congressman are also very concerned about the situation.”

McDonalds said that they are still optimistic that the casino portion of Imperial Pacific’s resort project will open soon.

Asked about the progress of the project, he said: “We don’t know the extent of any delay, but we are working on extending the license agreement and that’s our plan right now.”

McDonalds said they will meet with the Lottery Commission on April 24 to discuss their request for an extension of their live training facility in DFS Galleria.

McDonalds said they are also waiting for the approval of their permit by Department of Public Works so they can open the casino portion of the hotel.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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