19 Jan 2007

CNMI expresses concern over Minimum wage hike measure in US Congress

4:05 pm on 19 January 2007

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas has joined American Samoa in expressing concern over the controversial minimum wage measure working its way through the U.S. Congress.

The bill, which has already passed the U.S. House and is to be considered next week by the Senate, would increase the US minimum wage from its current US $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years.

The CNMI government spokesman Charles Reyes says that certain federal labour laws have long applied to the Commonwealth, but until now that has not included the minimum wage law.

"So the big question now is what rate can we afford and what rate can we not afford. There's a lot of debate going on right now about what wage rate would be sustainable for our island economy given our precarious economic situation right now. Our two main industries - garment manufacturing and tourism have shown tremendous weakness over the past few years."

Charles Reyes says they're urgently communicating the concerns to the US Congress, trying to make them understand what rates the CNMI can and cannot afford, based on sound economics rather than politics.