In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited has reportedly been criticized for terminating the employment contracts of 80 foreign workers that had been helping to construct its Imperial Palace Saipan integrated casino resort.

Lay-offs follow license extension:

According to a report from the Saipan Tribune newspaper, the terminations came only six weeks after the Hong Kong-listed casino operator had been granted a 42-month extension to an earlier agreement that was due to have seen it completely open the $650 million venue by the end of last August.

Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited began welcoming gamblers to the Saipan property to enjoy a selection of some 350 slots and 200 gaming tables in July of 2017 while its adjacent 350-room hotel remained under construction. A deal inked with the local Lottery Commission three months prior had made the license for this first-phase opening contingent upon the property being fully finished by August 31.

But, the operator subsequently explained in successfully applying for the license extension that work on the hotel portion of its Imperial Palace Saipan development had fallen behind schedule due to a lack of skilled construction workers caused by delays in the issuance of new immigration and labor laws.

Welcomed under temporary H-2B visas:

The Saipan Tribune reported that Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited had brought the workers to the American territory under temporary H-2B visas and had handed them their walking papers on Friday despite earlier giving them contract extensions until the end of the year.

Firm to prioritize local workforce:

In response to an inquiry from the newspaper, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited reportedly declared that the foreign workers had been let go in order to prioritize a local workforce that had been adversely affected following its termination last month of a deal with Guam-based construction firm Pacific Rim.

Reportedly read the statement from Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited…

“The purpose of the reduction is to adjust the level of labor supply based on the demand of the construction project. The adjustment is in line with effective workforce planning and efficiency improvement of the project. Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited plans to hire local construction [workers] who are released by Pacific Rim to ensure their continued employment.”

Dismissed staff provided ‘no explanation’:

However, Representative Edwin Propst from the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives reportedly criticized the move after yesterday meeting with around 50 of the workers. He purportedly declared that the laid off workers are now seeking answers because their terminations had been ‘so sudden’.

Propst reportedly told the Saipan Tribune…

“They explained to us that they were called in on Friday afternoon, one by one, and were served termination letters that they would only be given severance pay for seven days and they would be sent back home. They had contracts through January of 2019. They were given no explanation as to why they were being terminated so suddenly or why all 80 H-2B workers terminated just happened to be Filipinos.”

Operator may be ‘having serious problems’:

The representative reportedly went on to question whether the operator now has the ability to completely finish its Imperial Palace Saipan venue before the lengthened Lottery Commission agreement expires in February of 2021. He purportedly stated that the lay-offs follow the resignations of several ‘high-ranking executives’ at Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited and serve as ‘telltale signs that the casino is having serious problems’.

Propst reportedly told the newspaper…

“It seems now that Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited got a two-and-a-half-year extension for completing the hotel casino project in Garapan, it has decided to lay off both local and H-2B workers. Do we honestly believe that Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited is going to complete the casino hotel by its construction deadline in 2021 after laying off hundreds of skilled workers?”