Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ex-Subic casino workers seek payment of back pay

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines—With the recent closure by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) of several foreign-owned hotels and a casino here, former employees are clamoring for payment of back wages and benefits before the firm’s remaining assets are taken by its creditors.

Romeo Caoile, spokesperson for the displaced employees of Legend International Resorts Ltd. (LIRL), said the employees feared that nothing would be left to them after the creditors of the Hong Kong-registered company divide its assets to cover its debts.

“The same fate [awaits] the more than 200 employees left working at LIRL’s remaining establishments,” Caoile said.

Rehabilitation plan

In 2006, foreign investors and local non-financial creditors of LIRL, like the SBMA and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), agreed to a corporate rehabilitation plan for the company that ultimately failed to restore its profitability.

Due to this, Caoile said the LIRL management decided to put regular employees on a rotation basis.

“One of the first things they did is to suspend our salaries and benefits, and then they employed us on a rotation basis. Then we were retrenched when we did not accept to work as casual employees because we had already been working there for years,” he said.

Most of LIRL’s 700 employees who lost their jobs in 2007 filed a case of illegal dismissal with the National Labor Relations Commission. “[We filed the case] to get what is rightfully ours, especially since we have lost our livelihood when they retrenched us,” Caoile said.

He said more than 200 employees lost their jobs in 2006 when Pagcor revoked LIRL’s gaming license when the firm failed to pay more than P1 billion it owed the government.

“I understand that the casino had debts to Pagcor, but the hotels still had plenty of customers,” he said.

On Friday, the SBMA shut down and barricaded LIRL’s establishments due to nonpayment of arrears.

Lawyer Robert Ongsiako, SBMA deputy administrator for legal affairs, said LIRL had over P200 million cash in bank, “excluding their movable and physical assets.”

However, Ongsiako said the SBMA cannot yet seize control of LIRL’s property. “That is another matter for the court to decide,” he said.

He said the SBMA was collecting more than P800 million from LIRL.

Efren Zubiri, the local representative of LIRL’s liquidators in Hong Kong, said the issue “should be discussed in the proper forum.” Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

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