IPI insists it has workers comp

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC maintains that it has workers compensation insurance for its workers, contrary to allegations of seven construction workers who are suing IPI and its two contractors over the injuries they allegedly sustained during accidents at IPI’s casino-resort project in Garapan.

In her court declaration dated Monday, Magdalena P. Attao, IPI Human Resources Department vice president, said she is tasked with the responsibility of coordinating and subscribing to various insurance policies governing IPI employees.

Attao’s declaration was attached in support of IPI’s motion to dismiss the workers’ lawsuit.

One such insurance policy that falls under the duties of her department and/or the employees she directly supervises is Workers Compensation Insurance, Attao said.

She attested that IPI had Workers Compensation Insurance for its employees in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

The plaintiffs are suing IPI and its two former contractors: Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC and MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co.

The seven workers then amended their lawsuit to add the charge of forced labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, forced labor in violation of the CNMI Anti-Trafficking Act, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractor.

The workers alleged, among other things, that they were forced to work long hours for below minimum wage under extremely dangerous conditions.

They are demanding damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

In IPI’s motion to dismiss, IPI general counsel Phillip J. Tydingco said the plaintiffs’ fourth claim in their lawsuit is premised on the allegations that IPI did not maintain Workers Compensation Insurance. Tydingco said that IPI did, in fact, had that insurance.

Tydingco said the Workers Compensation policy clearly provides that it covers claims of employees of construction subcontractors.

The lawyer said the complaint does not allege that any of the plaintiffs filed a claim with the Workers Compensation administrator within one year.

On plaintiffs’ claims for violation of Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, Tydingco said the workers’ reliance on speculative and conclusory allegations is insufficient to support a claim for relief.

Tydingco said count one of the claim is replete with speculative and conclusory allegations and lacks allegations of specific conduct relating to “forced labor, trafficking, or document retention in furtherance of trafficking.”

“At best, plaintiffs’ allegations relate to violations of federal labor and immigration laws but not to conduct which amounts to forced labor trafficking or unlawful documentation retention in furtherance of trafficking,” the lawyer said.

Tydingco said the plaintiffs’ allegations concerning IPI’s purported disregard for the safety of workers are immaterial and scandalous. He asked the court to also dismiss the claim. Such allegations, he said, are meant solely to inflame passion or prejudice against IPI and serve no other purpose.

The seven plaintiffs are Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Qingchun Xu, and Duxin Yang.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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