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Worker: Nobody told us about terms of settlement

ONE of the seven construction workers still on island said they have not seen any settlement agreement from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Li Qiang and the six other workers, who said they were employed by the Saipan casino’s contractor, MCC, said no one informed them of any agreement involving USDOL.

“Nobody has told us the actual terms of the settlement, let alone shown us a copy of the settlement agreement, and we have not received a penny at this point,” he said in a statement provided to Variety.

Li Qiang

Li Qiang, Gong Ben Ji, Cui Lian Yin, Wu Da Wei, Xu Long Cai, Guo Qing Hui, and Fang Yu Guo have refused to accept Imperial Pacific International’s offer of back wages and are demanding that they get additional money.

“Will we be compensated for the recruitment fees we paid?” Li Qiang asked. “Will we receive all of our back wages and liquidated damages? When are we actually going to be paid?”

He added, “We also have not seen any evidence that MCC has actually transferred the promised money to the USDOL.”

He said he and the other workers are now looking for a “cheap space” which they can share after they were evicted from the room that IPI rented for them in Garapan.

On Jan. 4, China Labour Bulletin, an advocacy group based in Hong Kong, wrote a letter to IPI regarding the workers’ situation.

CLB said “Imperial Pacific is ultimately responsible for the labor conditions and rights abuses that occur at its construction projects. It is disgraceful that workers have been pressured to return to China and pursue the money they are owed on their own. Your company, however, still has an opportunity to make amends. Imperial Pacific should immediately pay the workers in full while they are in Saipan and take up the dispute with the subcontractor itself. We will continue to monitor the conditions of these workers and the progress on your case.”

In a statement in response to CLB’s letter, IPI said:

“Imperial Pacific was reliably informed that the U.S. Department of Labor and the respective employer of each worker have entered into a mutually agreeable settlement agreement to resolve the workers’ claims.

“Imperial Pacific is not privy to the terms of the settlement agreement; however, Imperial Pacific is pleased that a settlement has been reached to settle the workers’ claims. Imperial Pacific is hopeful that the USDOL will soon pay the workers pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement and that the workers will be reunited with their families.”

A lawyer who has been helping the workers and is familiar with the case told Variety that “any settlement reached between the USDOL and the employer, even though it is technically on behalf of the workers, is only between the USDOL and the employer.”

The lawyer, who declined to be identified, said “the USDOL does not consult with the workers before it decides whether or not to sign an agreement. Some USDOL settlements are for less than the workers are actually owed. For instance, in some cases, the employer might say that it does not have enough money, or the USDOL might fear that it will be hard to collect money from the employer because its assets are overseas, and therefore USDOL accepts less than the full amount owed to each worker.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101310-worker-nobody-told-us-about-terms-of-settlement

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