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US Senator Barbara Mikulski announced the delay for H-2B visa wage requirement. (Photo: YouTube/SenatorMikulski)

60-day delay applied to H-2B visa wage requirements

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Friday, September 23, 2011, 23:30 (GMT + 9)

US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced that a new federal H-2B visa wage requirement originally set to go into force on 1 October will be delayed for 60 days. The Department of Labour (DoL) will issue a notice in the Federal Register next week to impose the delay of the new wage requirements until 30 November.

The new wage rule would have pushed up the hourly wages of temporary foreign workers on H-2B visas.

According to recent research, this rule would indirectly cut 1,000 jobs in Maryland's seafood industry. 

Given all these facts, the senator vowed to continue working toward a sensible approach to H-2B wages.

"We got a pause, but I'm going to keep fighting for a long-term solution that is fair for workers and viable for preserving jobs in Maryland's seafood industry," Mikulski said. "These are jobs that once they are lost, they will never come back.”

Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mikulski and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have jointly led a successful effort in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language blocking the H-2B visa foreign labour policy in legislation that provides funding to the DOL. The legislation must next be passed by the full Senate and the House of Representatives, and then signed by the President to become permanent.

DoL last month informed it was accelerating implementation of the rule from 1 January 2012 to 1 October 2011, otherwise known as the middle of the crabbing season. The move could lead to canneries shutting down operations and jeopardizing the jobs of Marylanders.

H-2B employers now pay the prevailing wage for that type of work so workers with comparable tasks or skills are paid in the same category. The new regulations – which were drafted without regard for or consultation with the seafood industry -- would average the pay of different kinds of jobs regardless of the tasks, skills or industry in question.

"I am a reformer. I believe that in the US, we must have fair wages for all workers,"  Mikulski said. "But a one-size-fits-all approach on new regulations won't work for Maryland's seafood industry, which is critical for our jobs and for our way of life."

Mikulski is a long-time champion of the H-2B visa programme and the jobs it creates in Maryland. The scheme protects American workers by requiring employers to recruit American workers first, and it keeps small and seasonal businesses open by guaranteeing needed labour during the peak seasons.

"Until this issue is resolved, I am going to keep attaching this amendment to any bill that has a shot at becoming law,"  Mikulski said.   

Related article:

Shrimp sector joins seafood industry's opposition to govt rulemaking 

By Natalia Real


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