GARAPAN, Saipan – At least 22 Filipino nurses and auxiliary personnel in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) have complained they have not been paid on time for as long as three months now.
Some nurses received partial payments for their salaries, but are still uncertain whether they would get paid in full or if they would get paid after all in the next pay period.
The 22 overseas health workers are employed by a private employment agency, Saipan Employment Agency and Services, for work in the CNMI, a U.S. territory some three hours away from Manila.
These Filipino nurses are assigned to the CNMI government-run Rota Health Center and Tinian Health Center, located in two other major islands of the CNMI.
In the CNMI’s capital island of Saipan, nurses in the government-run hospital are directly employed by the government and do not experience salary delays.
Most of the government nurses in Saipan and in the whole Northern Marianas are Filipinos.
“Nagi-stay pa rin kami dito dahil ayaw naman naming iwanan ang mga pasyente namin. Pero sana maayos na itong problema namin. Sana ma-hire na kami directly ng gobyerno. Hindi na namin makakayanan kapag ‘di pa kami makatanggap ng sweldo,” one of the Filipino nurses at the Rota Health Center told GMANews.TV.
(We’re staying here because we don’t want to abandon our patients. But we’re hoping that our problem would be addressed. We hope we’d be hired directly by the government. We can’t stand it any longer if we still don’t receive our wages.)
Filipino nurses in both Tinian and Rota do not want to be identified, fearing retaliation from either the employment agency or the CNMI government.
Since March 2010, nurses in Rota received payments covering only the hourly $4.55 minimum wage of their salaries, and not their complete hourly salary of $8.93 to $9.20 an hour.
These nurses’ employment agency, SEAS, has also been permanently barred and disqualified from hiring, renewing or employing foreign workers in the CNMI because of labor violations.
SEAS appealed the decision, but the CNMI Department of Labor upheld the debarment and disqualification. The agency can still appeal the latest decision.
The employment agency likewise said it has not been receiving payments from the CNMI government and, as a result, could not pay these Filipino nurses for the services they render at the government health centers.
CNMI lawmakers stepped in to identify funds to pay the nurses salary. However, the funding appropriated by lawmakers and approved by the governor could only cover partial payment of the salaries.
The Philippine Consulate General in Saipan could not be reached as of posting time.
Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show there are over 3,200 Filipino workers in the US territory as of 2009.—JMA/JV, GMANews.TV
By HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV