Pinay nude dancer felt like 'a prisoner' in Saipan
She was sometimes coerced by her employer into touching or being touched by customers in private areas, had to pay an exorbitant recruitment fee which was deducted from her salary at $250 every payday, and experienced other alleged labor violations.
When Claire (not her real name) finally had the courage to quit her job after two months, there was no turning back.
“I didn’t want to dance nude anymore. I always thought about my nursing exam. I always felt I was a prisoner there," said the 21-year-old Claire, who was not once allowed by her employer to even go to church on Sundays despite repeated requests.
When she brought up her plan to quit her job to her employer and his wife, she was told she could only leave if she pays them about $4,500, thrice the amount they said they spent to bring her to Saipan.
Claire didn`t have the money but she managed to leave the barracks.
"I made up my mind," she said.
She said there were 15 other young women from the Philippines who had to live through the same ordeal when she left the club at around 6 a.m. on June 5.
A raid by local and federal law enforcement agencies on the same club she used to work for led to the discovery of a minor from the Philippines working as a nude dancer.
The 17-year-old girl was reportedly deported by the CNMI government to the Philippines after the raid but it was not clear whether the Philippine and CNMI governments have been pursuing the club`s illegal employment of a minor as well.
Claire, who requested GMANews.TV not to use her real name or the Philippine province where she came from, testified on Thursday at a CNMI Department of Labor hearing on her labor case against White House Corp. doing business as Moon Night and King`s Club.
With the help of the Federal Labor Ombudsman`s Office, she filed a complaint against her former employer on June 13, 2007 for various labor violations.
“Dapat huwag kayong matakot. Kung ayaw niyo talaga ang trabaho ninyo, me karapatan kayong umayaw. Ang dami kong kasama sa trabaho na gusto ring umalis pero natatakot sila. Sana magkaroon din sila ng lakas na loob na umalis (They should not be scared. If you don`t really want your job, you have the right to say no. I had many former colleagues who also wanted to leave the job but they were afraid to do so. I hope they also have the courage to leave)," she told GMANews.TV in an interview.
The hearing on her labor case will be continued on Nov. 29.
During her two-hour testimony before CNMI labor hearing officer Barry Hirshbein, Claire admitted that she left Manila, Philippines as a “tourist" but was able to enter Saipan, CNMI as a “nonresident worker."
Under Philippine law, workers are not allowed to work abroad as nude dancers but only as “cultural dancers."
But CNMI law allows foreign workers to enter the islands to work as nude dancers at nightclubs.
Other women from the Philippines who were recruited to work as dancers in the CNMI sometimes have to travel from Manila to Hong Kong first before going to Saipan and present themselves as nonresident workers, as “coached" by their recruiters and employers.
Almost all of the nude dancers in CNMI night clubs are from the Philippines.
Claire said she was recruited by “Tess Chua" of Long Beach Travel & Tours, a travel agency in the Philippines. Chua and the son of Claire`s employer interviewed her in Manila for the Saipan job. She said Long Beach Travel & Tours coached her about what to tell airline and immigration personnel both in Manila and Saipan so she could exit and enter the airport without hassles.
She also testified she had no previous experience as a dancer in the Philippines. CNMI labor law requires at least two years of relevant work experience prior to employment in the CNMI.
At 21, going to Saipan was Claire`s first travel abroad.
From the airport, she was brought to her barracks, which was on the second floor of a three-story building owned by or leased to her employer.
Only about five hours after she arrived on Saipan on March 31, she was required to dance right away.
“I didn`t expect to dance naked…I only knew about it the night I was supposed to start dancing," said Claire. Despite her protest against dancing naked, Claire said she did it anyway for fear of her employer, identified as “Hyung Yong Park."
Claire said she and her former colleagues didn’t have days off. They worked six hours a day, seven days a week at $3.05 an hour, plus two hours of overtime a week and lady’s drink commissions. They worked from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day.
They were only allowed to leave the barracks to work at the club and for two hours each every payday to buy groceries either with escort or by using a taxi known to their employer so they could be monitored.
Claire said every morning, their employer would check each woman’s room to make sure they were there.
Besides Moon Night, Claire and the other girls were brought to another club, King`s Club in Garapan, to dance.
Claire said after her first month, her employer would coerce her into placing her hands on male customers or the employer would encourage customers to place their hands on her.
In the complaint she filed with the CNMI Department of Labor, Claire asked for a reimbursement of the excess housing fee that her employer deducted from her wages and of the recruitment fee that they had been asking her to pay amounting to $250 per pay day. She said Saint Trading, a company on Saipan, has been collecting the recruitment fee.
She also asked for compensatory wages for making her stay at the barracks even after working hours, along with liquidated damages.
Moon Night club has been a subject of previous complaints and concerns involving violations of CNMI and federal labor laws but just the same, the club continues to be allowed to recruit dancers from the Philippines. - GMANews.TV