4 Pinay nude dancers share ordeal in Saipan club
10/01/2007 | 09:56 PM
SAN ANTONIO, Saipan – Sienna (not her real name) was only 18, a minor under CNMI and US laws, when she entered Saipan to work as a nude dancer for the now defunct Nagoya Star Night Club. Like the other women hired from the Philippines, she had to endure barracks lockdowns, delayed wages, unpaid lady’s drink commissions, illegal deductions and illegal reduction in work hours, among other things.
Because she and other club employees had no keys to their barracks’ gate, they would have to throw money over the locked gate to a taxicab driver who would buy food for them after their work hours at 2 a.m.
For several months, Sienna and 11 other female employees of the club had to share a single room with two male employees with separate bunk beds. They also shared a single bathroom and a kitchen.
Sienna was among the four former employees of the club who filed a labor complaint against ASC Inc., doing business as Nagoya Star Night Club, for various violations of labor law and regulations.
The four women – now 21 to 30 years old – are from Pampanga and Bicol in the Philippines. They started dancing naked on their first night of arrival on Saipan.
Since Nagoya Star Night Club shut down in April and they were given temporary work authorizations, only one of them has been able to find a temporary employer where she works as a strip dancer. Three others are still looking for temporary jobs.
“Kung maaari, ayaw ko nang magsayaw ng hubad. Sana may makita akong ibang trabaho. Pero kung wala na talaga, wala akong choice (As much as possible, I don’t want to dance naked anymore. I hope I’d be able to find another job. But if there’s none, I would have no choice)," another of the four women told GMANews.TV in an interview right after the settlement deal meeting.
The administrative hearing on their case was held last week. But right before the start of the second day of the hearing on Thursday, their former employer offered to settle the labor case for a yet-to-be determined amount, admitting only to some wages owed and the unpaid lady’s drink commissions.
“Gusto namin na malaman ng mga tao kung paano nila kami tinrato; gusto naming ipaalam 'yung katotohanan. Gusto na lang naming mag-move on kaya pumayag kami sa settlement. Hindi naman habol 'yung pera (We want people to know how our former employer treated us; we want to let the truth come out. We just want to move on that’s why we agreed to settle. We’re not after the money," the eldest of the dancers said in an interview.
The draft of the settlement agreement may be presented by Nagoya Star Night Club’s counsel, Timothy Bellas, to the dancers, represented by the CNMI Department of Labor, and assisted by the Federal Labor Ombudsman’s Office, by Oct. 15.
But because Nagoya Star Night Club is already closed and no longer has resources, parties in the settlement case are likely to tap insurance bonds to pay the workers as part of the settlement deal. Bonds provide a maximum of $1,500 for each worker.
The four dancers said they each paid $700 in recruitment fees to work at Nagoya Star Night Club. The fees were deducted from their wages at a rate of $100 per pay period.
CNMI labor hearing officer Jerry Cody said he would be issuing an administrative order giving the four dancers an opportunity to find a new employer within a 45-day period or they have to exit Saipan.
Nagoya Star general manager Angelina Cabrera, whom the employees called “Mama Gigi," was also from the Philippines and who received the brunt of the workers’ complaints over wages, commissions and housing and working conditions.
The club failed to pay the workers on time early this year. After a labor complaint was filed, Nagoya Star paid a total of $4,345.09 to cover back wages and the former workers’ last pay period in April.
The workers, who worked from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and, on many occasions, without a day off, said the club often failed to pay them for 40 hours a week as stated in their contract, starting in 2006. As of the beginning of 2007, they stopped receiving the lady’s drink commissions.
The dancers were supposed to receive a $3 commission for every $20 lady’s drink bought by a customer, a $10 commission for a $60 drink; and a $20 commission for a $100 drink.
Nagoya Star didn’t dispute the failure to pay the workers their lady’s drink commissions, saying the company was “broke" and that it could no longer afford to pay such commissions to the workers.
Besides this labor case, Nagoya Star Night Club was also the subject of a separate case filed in federal court involving seven former Nagoya Star employees hired from the Philippines. The trial of this case has been scheduled in 2008. - Haidee Eugenio, GMANews.TV