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Filipino's employment struggle resonates on International Migrants Day

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Looking forward: Charlotte De Leon, from the Philippines, was in attendance at the United Nations International Migrants Day held at City Hall in Hamilton yesterday.

Filipino Charlotte de Leon was one of only a handful of expatriates to attend the proclamation of International Migrants Day yesterday.She said she came because she believes her former employers, Opus Lounge, have mistreated her.Eleven months ago she was fired amid allegations she gave drinks to her friends.She denied the claims, adding she only gave free drinks to patrons who ran up large bills or regular customers, a practice which is common in Bermuda’s bars. She said she did so with her boss’s permission.She believes she was fired because she told her employers she planned to work for a rival company.A labour tribunal was set to arbitrate the dispute, however it was postponed in May when the owners decided to press criminal charges of theft. She is still waiting for her day in court, she said.“I want to clear my name,” she said. “And I want to get a letter of release so I can work again in Bermuda.“It has been very hard as I have not been able to work for 11 months. The Filipino community has been supporting me. I think [the owners] hoped I would leave, but I am not going to.“A lot of Filipinos on the Island are badly treated and I think they are starting to speak out now. They have seen me on TV and in the paper and they realise that they can complain about being abused.”Yesterday, Walter Brown, the Human Resources manager for the Frescos Group of restaurants, said the company was waiting for the arbitration panel to set the date and he believed it would be sometime in January.He added that Ms de Leon was fired after admitting to theft on a “significant scale”.“She raised no objection to this termination until after she found out she would not get approval for another permit at another restaurant,” he said. “The matter was reviewed by the Department of Labour and Training and they submitted a report to the Department of Immigration, which then instructed Charlotte to leave the Island.“On an appeal to the Ombudsman, the Department of Labour and Training were directed to review the case again since the Ombudsman wanted to ensure each step was carefully adhered to.“The Department then decided to send the matter to the Arbitration Tribunal; this was held in abeyance since the Frescos Group made a criminal complaint about Ms De Leon’s admitted theft.“[The criminal complaint] was later withdrawn and Frescos Group is now awaiting a date for the Arbitration Tribunal.”

Unity: Members of the Filipino community came out for the United Nations International Migrants Day held yesterday at City Hall. Pictured left to right are Ghenie Edwards, Louella Dela Cruz, Roland Putoy and Charlotte De Leon.