The local garment industry is seeking a partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division to bring Saipan’s garment companies in compliance with federal labor law.
This as Saipan Garments Manufacturers Association Executive Director Richard A. Pierce asked the division to temporarily suspend its enforcement activity on Saipan until the companies are made fully aware of certain provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“We would want to have a partnership agreement with Wage & Hour, where they would audit our firms and then consult and recommend before issuing citations for violations,” said Pierce.
In a letter to Bruce Cranford, Targeted Industry Coordinator for the Wage & Hour Division, Pierce said the division should orient garment businesses more about the subcontracting practices allowed under the FLSA prior to Wage & Hour’s enforcement activity.
“The US Wage & Hour Division mission statement reads that ‘The Wage & Hour mission is to achieve compliance with labor standards through enforcement, administrative and educational programs to protect the nation’s workers,'” according to Pierce.
“We do want to comply with the law and we do recognize that ignorance is no excuse for non-compliance. We do however request that in all fairness to the businesses that the enforcement division visits, there be established a partnership between our association, your Targeted Coordinator’s office and the enforcement office of Wage & Hour,” Pierce told Cranford.
He particularly wanted more of an educational outreach by Cranford’s office with emphasis on subcontracting as it relates to the FLSA’s “hot goods” provision.
He stressed that SGMA members received very little in explanation to their questions about the areas of the said provisions.
Pierce had previously protested Wage & Hour’s threat to seize as “hot goods” the shipments of any garment firm that fails to take responsibility over unpaid wages of employees hired by subcontractors.
He, nonetheless, maintained he would like to have a partnership agreement with the Division so that SGMA and Wage & Hour could approach issues with the same cooperation the garment organization enjoys from the US Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, under the Excellence 2000 program.
The Saipan Garment Manufacturer’s Association represents 31 of the islands’ garment factories. Employing nearly 15,000 people, including 2,400 local residents, garment manufacturing is a driving economic force in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.