Imperial Pacific International (IPI), developers of the Imperial Palace integrated resort (IR) in Saipan, isn’t meeting its obligations. IPI, through its casino license agreement, is required to maintain a workforce comprised of 65% U.S. employees. As of April, the development only contains 44%.
The employment report was submitted to the Commonwealth Casino Commission by Bertha Leon Guerrero, the VP of Human Resources for IPI. The U.S. employee pool can include citizens, permanent residents or citizens of the Freely Associated States (FAS). U.S. FAS citizens are those that come from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau. Of the 44%, 531 employees are U.S. citizens, 91 are permanent U.S. residents and 29 are FAS citizens.
Companies in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNWI) have had a great amount of difficulty attracting skilled labor, and the problem will more than likely get worse. The U.S. has indicated that it is scaling back the number of CW-1 visas issued and the program could be abolished completely by the end of 2019. A CW-1 visa allows travel to the U.S. for temporary workers who are to be employed in the CNWI.
IPI has already faced a fair amount of employment headaches. In March, four construction companies out of China were forced to pay just under $14 million in back wages and damages to over 2,400 workers who were working on the Imperial Palace resort. The U.S. Department of Labor determined that the employees had been brought in on tourist visas and were being paid under the legal wage rate.
Saipan is a U.S. territory with around 50,000 inhabitants. IPI has been embroiled in several scandals on top of the employment fraud, and has been accused of making millions of dollars in questionable payments to members of Governor Ralph Torres’s family. The payments have been made to cover long-term land lease transactions, as well as to retain the law firm of the governor’s brother.
The Imperial Palace is a luxury IR being constructed in Garapan, Saipan. It will offer over 200 gaming tables, 350 slot machines and a 14-story hotel with more than 340 suites and 15 deluxe villas. There will be a variety of dining options, including Asian and Western fine and casual dining. A beach club and night club are also planned to be offered at the facility.