THE National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) 7 has ordered a Korean bar owner and his Filipino partners, which allegedly include a Cebu Councilor, to pay over P2 million in back wages and other benefits to 18 employees terminated “illegally” last year.

Labor Arbiter Emilio Tiongco Jr., in an 11-page decision, said the management of Club Juliana along Mango Ave., Cebu City failed to show “clear, valid and legal cause for the termination of employment” of the complaining ex-employees.

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“The labor code provides that an employer may terminate the services of an employee for just causes and this must be supported by substantial evidence,” the ruling read.

Cebu City Councilor Gerardo Carillo served as counsel for the club and the owners, Korean Jae Hee Jeon and one Peachy Israel Gemina.

However, lawyer Caesar Tabotabo, counsel for the employees, said Carillo is also a “partner” in the venture.

The complaining ex-workers - Caesar del Mar, Melrick Lee, Renan Reblinca, Joseph Gonzales, Leo Urot, Tito Guizona, Franklin Mendoza Jr., Reynaldo Rañen, Elmar Fuentes, Jonathan dela Cerna, Benjamin Radana, Albert Narboada, Romulo Navarro, Jeffrey Ortega, Cherryl Esconde, Jefred Pacuma, Reynaldo Solon and Nalyn Ebrao - held various positions, including bouncers, bartenders, waiters and cook, at the club that is popular among the young.

In the position paper they submitted to the NLRC, they said they enjoyed regular employment status and earned from P240 to P320 a day.

They were hired on different dates, some as early as October of 2007, but were fired on March 15, 2009. Club Juliana opened in August 2007.

In his complaint, del Mar said he was hired as a bouncer but often served as Jeon’s bodyguard and hinted that their mass termination might have been due to an incident in February last year.

He narrated how a fight broke out inside the bar between a German customer and a Chinese national who happened to be Jeon’s friend.

Del Mar said he and the other bounders broke the fight off and brought the two outside the premises. The two, however, continued to slug it out outside.

Local youths who knew the German intervened and ganged up on the Korean bar owner’s friend. Jeon went outside the bar upon learning of the incident and was injured in the melee.

Another complainant, Rañen, said their mass termination could have been due to an incident involving three of Jeon’s Korean friends who drank at the bar with seven Filipino guests.

The Filipinos ordered beer and the Koreans, upon getting the bill, got irked that the drinks their Filipino guests ordered were charged to their account, and refused to pay.

Through Carillo, Jeon and Gemina asked that the complaint be dismissed. They said the workers were fired for various causes – lack of valid health certificates, tardiness, absenteeism, sleeping on the job and fraud.

“Being regular employees, complainants are entitled to security of tenure and their services may not be terminated except for causes provided by law,” Tiongco’s ruling said.

No such cause was found.