Click here for today's May 9, 2007 edition of the Saipan Tribune which reported on yet another planned factory closure and the alleged altercations that ensued following Top Fashion's announcement that it's closing its doors in July.
Now, it'll make me happy to be proven wrong, but I am amazed -- simply amazed-- that with all these factory closures, the Senate continues to "hostage" H.B. 15-131: The Large-Scale Businesses Winding up Act of 2007.
Why is this Bill important, you might say? Well, not to toot my own horn, but this is a major piece of legislation that took a lot of thought and hours and hours of hard work to craft before it was passed by my colleagues in the House last year.
I inquired with various Senators on the status of the Bill, but I ended up with answers that had fingers pointing in both directions, but never to the person I'm talking to to give me some straight answers.
Finally, Senator Maria Pangelinan mentioned to me at the State of the Commonwealth Address that she gave the Bill to Mike Earnest, Senate Legal Counsel, to review and to report out.
Last week, I also spoke to Senate Floor Leader Felix Mendiola, who assured me that he would have the Bill put on the calendar for the Senate's next session.
Honestly! I sure hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Just to add more emphasis on this Bill -- the Labor Department hailed this as an important new piece of legislation that establishes new laws on the books. The Bill sets forth procedures which an employer who has 25 or more employees must abide by in dissolving its business. In other words, this Bill covers hotels, casinos, big construction companies, etc.
This Bill also empowers the Attorney General to seize assets to ensure repatriation of abandoned employees, payment of taxes, fees, etc.
Moreover, House Speaker Oscar Babauta cited this Bill along with H.B. 15-38, the Bill that completely overhauls the Nonresident Workers Act that I have been working on with a Task Force for well over a year now, in his report to the U.S. Congress on the proactive steps that the CNMI is taking to effectively deal with its Labor issues.
In fact, in his remarks at the Multi-Purpose Complex in Susupe before lawmakers, the Governor, and other government officials and private sector officials, the Department of Interior's Deputy Secretary David Cohen mentioned H.B. 15-131 and asked me what was the hold up in the Senate. At that time, I thought that it was just a matter of time before the Bill was passed. Now, here we are months later, and that's not the case.
Interestingly, this bill was inspired by a presentation that was given to the House members by Mr. James Lin and the Saipan Garment Manufacturer's Association early last year. In this presentation, Mr. Lin forewarned lawmarkers about the upcoming closures of the garment factories.
Having come straight from a job as a Labor Hearing Officer for the Department of Labor, I realized that a proactive step towards establishing a uniform guide to be followed by all businesses employing 25 or more employees in ensuring an orderly dissolution of their businesses and repatriation of workers to their point of hire needed to be taken.
House Bill 15-131, the resultant Bill, was a product of months of hard work in drafting this legislation that included input from Jim Benedetto, the Federal Ombudsman. Below is the summary.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. James Lin, who owns PIC, the second largest garment manufacturer in the CNMI, does not like this Bill. He thinks it's draconian and thinks I'm picking on the garment industry. No I'm not, but I can see why he would perhaps think this way.
You see, I changed the title of this Bill to be more inclusive of all large-scale business but, I originally called it "Garment Manufacturer's Winding-Up Act" only because he inspired me to author this Bill when he reported to us last year about the impending garment factory closures.