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Axed Workers Seek Restitution

One of the owners of the Domino’s Pizza franchises in Costa Rica allegedly received various telephone death threats following the abrupt closing of the nine stores throughout San José late last month. On Jan. 30, more than 120 employees from Domino’s Pizza were left jobless after the owners gave employees less than a day’s notice before closing down the nine restaurants, allegedly citing a fabricated health hazard as an excuse to evacuate the premises so they could empty the locales. The restaurants were cleared out of all their equipment by the next day.


Manuel de Freitas, a negotiator hired by the owners, said one of the Mexican owners of the franchise, José Urraca, received numerous telephone death threats on Jan. 31.


Urraca was the only partner of the Mexican company Grupo de Mozzarella, which controls Senderos de Poás, owners of the Domino’s Pizza franchise in Costa Rica, living in the country.


“We understand that this was a difficult situation,” said de Freitas regarding the way store closings were handled. “As a result, sometimes people act in an irrational manner. These phone calls are still under investigation.”


De Freitas said the phone calls included threats against Urraca’s wife and children, and cited those calls as the main reason Urraca and his family fled Costa Rica on Feb. 1.


De Freitas said the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) has not yet determined the identity of the callers.


Last Monday, a group of former Domino’s Pizza workers, Labor Vice Minister Eugenio Solano, Manuel de Freitas and their respective attorneys met to negotiate the disbursement of payments owed employees.


The meeting resulted in a preliminary payment plan for employees who had filed complaints with the Labor Ministry during the last two weeks. No binding agreement has yet been signed.


The proposed payment plan consists of three different instalments, de Freitas said on Wednesday. The first instalment, which the company hopes to begin paying today, will pay each former employee half of what they are owned. The second instalment, to be paid in March, would cover another 25 percent, while the remaining 25 percent owed would be disbursed sometime in April, according to de Freitas.


De Freitas also said vacation time, aguinaldo (end-of-year bonus), severance pay, and outstanding salary for the last two weeks worked would be included in the calculation of the amount owed each employee.


Former pizza deliveryman Henry Acuña, who is acting as the representative for employees of the Escazú branch, claims the group owes him a total of about ¢800,000 ($1,434), and he is hoping the motorcycle he bought with the help of Domino’s can be paid with the last instalment from the company.


By Wednesday, 30 employees of the 122, have not filed or registered with the Labor Ministry, which could cause problems regarding their payments down the road, de Freitas explained.


Additionally, de Freitas said 21 delivery motorcycles and four vehicles registered to the company disappeared from the premises shortly after the shutdown.


De Freitas said he had not filed any formal complaints with the OIJ for the theft of the vehicles, but said he will do so if the assets are not returned before Wednesday of next week.


“We’re giving these individuals, whoever they may be, a chance to return these vehicles with no questions asked,” de Freitas added.


Acuña, for his part, is hopeful every employee will get what they are owed. “(The owners) are aware of what they did,” Acuña said of his former employers. “They want to make it right, and we’re willing to listen.”


Apart from settling the workers’ compensation packages, there is still an outstanding debt with local banks and numerous suppliers that had business relationships with the Domino’s Pizza franchise in Costa Rica.


“We have asked the banks for an extension until next week to pay off less than $20,000,” de Freitas said.


In addition, 147 providers, in their majority small suppliers from Costa Rica, are owed about $250,000 to $350,000 by Grupo de Mozzarella and Senderos de Poás.


Workers at Sábila Industrial S.A., another company that suddenly closed operations, leaving their 143-strong workforce without jobs or compensation, are also seeking some restitution against their former employer.


Sábila Industrial S.A., the owner of a factory located in Liberia, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, shut its doors late in January.


Last week, Labor Vice Minister Eugenio Solano said legal representatives of the aloe processing plant told him the business had closed due to the current financial crisis.


Judicial Branch spokeswoman Andrea Marín said on Wednesday afternoon that so far 56 former Sábila Industrial employees had joined four different lawsuits against the company with the Civil and Labor Court in Liberia.


Two weeks ago, the Labor Court froze close to ¢2 million (about $3,584) in the company’s bank account and seized plant machinery and computer equipment (TT, Feb. 13).


The managers of the Liberia plant fled the country, Vice Minister Solano said. In the absence of management, Solano met with the company’s lawyer last week in order to negotiate the employees’ compensation.


The Tico Times could not confirm the details of this meeting by press time.


Havells Sylvania, a lamps and electric fixtures manufacturer located in the industrial western San José district of Pavas, announced the closing of one of its plants and the dismissal of 200 employees this month. In addition, the pharmaceutical group Merck, Sharp & Dhome announced the dismissal of more than 100 of its workers last month. The daily La Nación reported this week that Melco, a metal construction company, has also laid off at least 100 people this month.

































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