Ex-casino workers seek answers

The 80 foreign workers whose job contracts were abruptly terminated by Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC are hoping to know the reason for their predicament.

IPI, in a statement, said that they are moving to hire the local and U.S. citizen workers that were previously under Guam-based contractor Pacific Rim Contractors, that’s why they had to let go of the foreign workers. “The purpose of the reduction is to adjust the level of supply based on the demand of construction project.”

“This adjustment is in line with effective workforce planning and efficiency improvement of the project,” added IPI in the statement. 

The 80 workers arrived on Saipan in separate groups, from May to July, and they were given conditional employment from Sept. 1, 2018 to Jan. 30, 2019. However, IPI terminated them last Friday, Oct. 12.

The workers are all Filipinos and had previously worked in other construction sites in the Middle East. They were directly hired by IPI through an employment agency in the Philippines.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is set to meet them on Wednesday morning. The 80 workers went to the CNMI Department of Labor yesterday where officials met with them and talked to a smaller group. Details of the meeting were kept confidential.

One of the workers, who requested anonymity for fear of backlash, told Saipan Tribune that they experienced discrimination in the construction site and were told do jobs that were not stated in their job contracts.

The worker said that their group feels helpless right now as they have been told different statements by their supervisors. “There’s a lot of speculation regarding our termination. IPI management didn’t give any official statement on…why we are terminated.”

“We are appealing to anyone who can force IPI to give their statement so that we can defend ourselves from what we just experienced. We can’t defend ourselves and they [IPI] have been telling us different reasons. Some are saying that we’re not qualified for the job or that we’re hard-headed.”

He added that Filipino workers are usually preferred by foreign employers for the quality of work they do. “Filipino workers are also known to multi-task and have many skills. We do work that we are told to do, even though it is no longer in our job description.”

Another worker said some of those who were hired as masons or plumbers were either asked to do carpentry work or assemble scaffolding, which needs another set of particular skills.

“There’s one mason who has yet to do mason work and was tasked to sweep the area while there’s a plumber who was asked to do carpentry. …On top of this, we assemble scaffolding, which we’re not qualified to do. There are certified workers who assemble scaffolding because it is very dangerous.

“We were also promised that we’re going to be reimbursed for the costs of our [work] visas, the medical checkup, and for our personal protective equipment.”

He added that they have yet to receive reimbursements, especially for the hard hats, construction vests, and safety shoes. “We should have been reimbursed during the first week of our work here. And we received word that the reimbursement will be included in our last paychecks.”

The workers, who are getting paid $14 to $16 an hour, said they face an uncertain future as they might return to the Philippines without the assurance of work. “We’re embarrassed to go back to the Philippines. …IPI harmed our employment records. We’re at a disadvantage here but IPI is saying that we are at fault, that’s why we’re terminated. We were told that we might go back to the Philippines tomorrow with IPI shouldering our return tickets.”

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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