Imperial Pacific, the company that hopes to one day—eventually, maybe, perhaps—complete construction at the Imperial Palace integrated resort (IR) in Saipan is under fire once again. The company is being sued by a handful of ex-employees who allege that Imperial Pacific practices human trafficking and human rights violations. The lawsuit is just the latest in what seems like a continuous string of inappropriate and questionable activity at the company.
According to a statement sent to CalvinAyre.com, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court by seven Chinese construction workers who were employed by Imperial Pacific to work on the Imperial Palace project. They allege the company was in violation of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Anti-Trafficking Act. They are also seeking compensation for injuries sustained on the job.
The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit last Friday. It reads, in part:
“Plaintiffs and many of the other Chinese construction workers on the Casino Project paid large recruitment fees for jobs in Saipan based on the promise of good conditions, high wages, legal work status, and immigration benefits.
“Plaintiffs paid fees sometimes exceeding U.S. $8,000 to recruiters in China,” in many cases being forced “to borrow money from loan sharks at high interest rates, using their land or homes as collateral… Although Plaintiffs had been promised that they could work in Saipan for multiple years or even obtain green cards, they later learned that they lacked legal authorization to work in Saipan.”
The lawsuit continues, “Plaintiffs were required to work over 12 hours per day without any rest day, and sometimes were forced to work a 24-hour shift. Even though Plaintiffs’ pay rate was already below the legal minimum wage, their employers systematically withheld a portion of their earned wages and often failed to pay them anything for weeks at a time. Plaintiffs were crammed into dormitories, some of which had no showers or air-conditioning. Their supervisors yelled and cursed at them, and forced them to pay fines if they did not work hard enough or arrived late. The Imperial Pacific construction site was also extremely dangerous. The injury incidence rate exceeded the national average as untrained and inexperienced workers were pushed to work around-the-clock while basic safety precautions were ignored.”
“Despite the dehumanizing conditions of their employment, Plaintiffs were coerced into continuing to work for their employers. Plaintiffs faced immense pressure to repay the large (and growing) debts incurred in China, and were told by their employers that if they left their job, nobody else would hire them. One Gold Mantis supervisor, who had already physically beaten another employee, threatened to kill Plaintiffs if they disobeyed him. MCC and Gold Mantis managers also repeatedly told them that because they were in Saipan illegally, it would be useless to complain to the authorities.”
Imperial Pacific has a track record of issues related to the Imperial Palace that makes the company look like it’s being run by the Three Stooges. There have been numerous reports of employees not being treated fairly or being forced to perform unsafe tasks for which they weren’t trained and the project has faced constant construction delays and allegations of racketeering. It will be interesting to see what happens at the company over the next year.