Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) are finalizing a bill to potentially raise the local minimum wage to that of the federal level of $7.25 by this year, jumping a couple rungs up the annual wage increases set by the federal government that would’ve seen the CNMI implement a $6.55 minimum wage this Sept. 30.
The Torres administration yesterday indicated its desire to have $7.25 wage made law before this September date. The minimum wage now is $6.05.
“We are in the process of finalizing the language of the proposed legislation,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune yesterday. “At this point, the proposal is to increase the minimum wage to the national level of $7.25. However, for construction workers, we are looking at data to see if it would serve more beneficial to peg the minimum wage for construction at the prevailing wage rate of $6.73.”
Administrative sources say raising the construction wage to the prevailing wage could help eliminate any salary cost reasons construction companies cite in pursuing contract worker visas over H-visa workers, who must be paid prevailing wages. The prevailing wage rate could incentivize the pursuit of H-visas, over contract worker visas, administration sources also say, a move that Torres and business leaders have stressed to relieve the strain on the limited quota on contract workers in the Commonwealth.