Farmers seek priority in labor policy

“A soad ma sebeched ma ngara llechud a diak losisiu,” Minister Ngirai Tmetuchl of HRCT&D said yesterday, announcing the publication of the draft Labor Regulations at meeting of the newly formed Senate Committee on Labor & Employment chaired by Senator Salvador Tellames.

The newly created Senate Labor & Employment Committee, chaired by Senator Salvador “Sadoi” Tellames, held its first public introductory meeting yesterday at the Palau Community College Assembly Hall, with members of the Committee, Senator Umiich Sengebau, and Senator TJ Remengesau.

Joining the introductory meeting were Minister Tmetuchl, Minister Steven Victor of MAFE, state speakers, and members of the farmers and livestock associations.

Senator Salvador Tellames introduced his colleagues, saying they were there to listen and informally discuss issues and concerns relating to employment and labor.

Minister Ngirai Tmetuchl reported the new draft Labor Regulations issued for public review and feedback. 

One of the proposed changes, for example, extends the required announcement period for a nonresident worker from 30 to 60 days.  Additionally, if the Director deems the position announced can’t be filled locally, for an extra fee, the applications can be fast-tracked according to the draft regulations.

Rose Ongalibang of the Livestock Association pled with the newly formed Labor and Employment to hear their concerns and help them survive and succeed.  She said the current law on unskilled labor does not support commercial farmers. 

“They come unskilled and we teach and train them and then they seek other jobs in construction and we have to start all over again,” added Ongalibang.  The law that requires commercial farmers to pay unskilled laborers minimum wage prevents commercial farmers from growing.  The exemption that allows non-commercial employers to hire unskilled workers below minimum wage should be expanded and extended to local commercial farmers, added Ongalibang.  Policies should be favorable to commercial farmers as they are the ones growing food for the nation’s food security.

Concerns regarding potential trafficking violations if this was allowed were raised, but farmers contend that it is the government’s job to monitor and ensure the laws are not broken.

Labor issues, especially with nonresident workers, are not new issues and have been raised so many times, said Haruo Wilter, a local financial pundit.

“The lawmakers here create the laws and the Labor enforces the law, the solutions are in your hands,” said Mr. Haruo Wilter, addressing the Senators and Ministers at yesterday’s meeting.

The draft labor regulations, published in accordance with APA rules, expands on the obligations of employers, increase fees related to non-resident worker and extend the required announcement period for job announcements and more.  The public is urged to review and comment on the draft regulations before the deadline on February 1st, 2023.

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