Casino workers who lost jobs seek answers


Nearly a hundred former employees of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC have accepted being laid off just before the holidays, but they hope that someone from upper management could provide them with answer to some of their questions.

“We understand that Saipan is in a state of disaster after the typhoon and there are not enough tourists that are coming in to play. But, hopefully somebody from management meet with us before they send us home,” said Mauro Barcoma—a sentiment shared by fellow ex-IPI employees Josh Noel Lapasaran, and Christine Montana.

Bacoma pointed out that, similar to his case, some of the laid-off employees just had their employment contracts renewed. “I just received my I-797 [form]. Still, I was also laid off. We want some of our questions to be answered,” he added.

Starting Monday, IPI had been laying off foreign workers, mostly in the gaming department—card dealers and supervisors—and managers working at the casino.

“It was emotionally and physically stressful for us after the typhoon. We were also victims [of the typhoon],” Barcoma said.

Commonwealth Casino Commission vice chair Joseph Reyes and executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune in a telephone interview that IPI went through the process of informing them and the local Department of Labor that they would be laying off workers as they were also affected by the cancellation of flights and the closure of the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport due to Yutu’s destruction.

“IPI had informed the executive director [Deleon Guerrero]. It was a tough call on IPI’s part but they saw it was necessary to lay off some workers. We all know that there are no tourists coming in, so it was a business decision,” said Reyes.

Deleon Guerrero added: “Yes, IPI informed the commission and the Department of Labor beforehand. They followed the right process.”

The company also sought the help of federal Labor but it was informed that IPI, like other companies in the CNMI, suffered losses and has the right to lay off workers or cut their operational hours.

Additional compensation

Lapasaran and Montana hope that IPI would provide them additional compensation on top of the seven-day payment that they are going to receive and if they still have accrued paid time off. Both had just come back a few months ago from the Philippines, with Lapasaran having minor surgery and Montana also having a medical checkup.

“I came back to Saipan last July and, after a few months, I’m jobless. I used up my savings for my operation and I’m just starting to save money again. We’re going back to the Philippines with limited money and no work. What will happen to us after that?” said Lapasaran.

Montana returned to the CNMI only last August. “I didn’t go home for a vacation. It was for a medical checkup. Now, after just a few short months, I’m going home again but this time for good. What will happen to our families with the small amount that we’re getting?”

They are hoping for additional compensation that would tide them over until they could find new jobs.

“We feel that we’re entitled to at least four months of our salary since some of us still have one year left with our contracts” said Barcoma.

“People think that all of those who are working in the casino have high salaries. Some of us are being paid the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, and were not given an increase since we started working here,” added Lapasaran.

They added that some of them also used up their paid time off, when they joined the cleanup and relief efforts after Yutu.

“Instead of us getting paid with our [paid time off], we had to use it since they forced us when we volunteered for community service. If we didn’t use it during our volunteer work, we won’t get paid since the casino had cut hours and closed for a few days,” added Barcoma.

Some workers that are getting paid the minimum wage of $7.25 would be receiving $406 for the seven-day payment.
Saipan Tribune sought IPI for comments but they have yet to respond as of press time.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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