FSM Labor and Immigration temporarily reverses decision to expel foreign workers

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 13, 2016
Federated States of Micronesia—In late August, the FSM’s Department of Labor and Immigration (L&I) notified Pohnpei’s Chief of the State Labor Office that it was returning applications for 46 foreign employees without its endorsement. The letter said that Pohnpei should notify the employers of those foreign workers that they should make arrangements for the employees to leave the FSM’s jurisdiction within 15 days of the notice.
The vast majority of the foreign workers listed on the letter were Filipinos. Joses Gallen, FSM’s Secretary for the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that is “because they constitute more than 80% of alien labor in this country.”
Two days later the Chuuk Office of FSM Labor and Immigration similarly notified employers in Chuuk that it would not be renewing contracts for foreign laborers. Shortly thereafter, several business owners and employers in Chuuk received letters detailing the names of their foreign workers who needed to leave the FSM within 15 days of that notice.

At least one attorney petitioned the action on behalf of a client. An Assistant Attorney General at FSM DOJ told the attorney in an email that DOJ had instructed L&I to rescind the letter.
Isaac Artui of Pohnpei’s Labor Office said that there was never any formal written communication saying that the L&I letter had been rescinded. He said that his office received a phone call from L&I saying that they should go ahead and process the labor permits for the named employees.
“It was not rescinded,” Gallen said during an online chat. “It was only extended for the next 6 months and up to a year to give all employers and their alien employees time to develop their plans to train up locals to do the work that most of the alien laborers are doing.”
Artui said that the State labor authorities have not been notified that the FSM merely deferred the action rather than rescinding it outright.
“For the record,” Gallen said, “currently the National Government is reviewing the FSM Labor laws and regulations including FSM Foreign Investment laws and regulations to (be) more economically and socially driven in the interest of the FSM given the current trend of increased and dominant foreign laborers in the country, and the mass exodus of FSM citizens leaving the FSM, and their families looking for...better opportunities than in the FSM. This is politically, socially, and economically incorrect.”
“Why are we hiring more aliens to do the work that the locals can do,” Gallen wrote. “Why are we allowing our citizens to leave the country to look for opportunity outside? Two simple answers: 1) We are not providing the opportunity; 2) Government and private sectors prefer outsiders because they do not have funerals. These are wrong—politically wrong and economically wrong.”
The FSM’s letter to the Pohnpei labor office said that the FSM Code “states the functions and duties of employment service which is ‘to conduct continuing surveys of manpower needs, assist in preparing training programs, and recommend other measures for alleviating shortages and reducing the need for nonresident workers.’”
Gallen confirmed that the FSM has not been conducting labor surveys to determine whether or not qualified locals are available for positions that are currently being filled by foreign nationals.
Artui said that the Pohnpei Office of Personnel and Labor has been doing surveys. He claims that the move by FSM L&I is an attempt to wrest control of the process of issuing permits from the States. “We have our own labor laws for the best interest of Pohnpei State,” he said.
Gallen asserts that employers have not been training locals to fill positions currently occupied by alien workers. He didn’t answer when we asked several times if that had been happening in the retail businesses he owns.
Some FSM employers have complained that they quite often spend time and money to train their fellow citizens only to have those employees take their new skills to Guam or to the US mainland.
Artui said that his office has issued work permits to all of the alien workers mentioned on L&I’s list, so at least until it is time to once again renew the permits, those employees are legally authorized to work under their contracts. He said that his office would continue to issue permits for applications that meet the requirements of the law and with Pohnpei’s labor needs.