Shoppers’ workers thank Celso, Beng for assistance, support PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 16:50

Hundreds of workers from the 5 Shoppers’ chain of stores showed up at City Hall yesterday morning to join Mayor Celso Lobregat and the city government employees in the flag raising ceremony as a show of gratitude and appreciation to the chief executive for his intercession that broke the impasse between the BIR and the company they work for due to tax deficiencies.

The placard bearing workers also expressed gratitude to House Deputy Speaker Beng Climaco for also assisting them in their predicament caused by the imposition of the temporary closure order on the 5 Shoppers’ chain of stores starting Wednesday, Sept. 7 to Sunday, Sept. 11.

“Mayor Celso Lobregat, from the bottom of our hearts,  muchas gracias por tu ayuda y asistencia”, one tarpaulin carried by the workers read in reference to the mayor’s intervention that led the owners of the Shoppers’ group of companies to commit to pay the full salaries of the almost 1,000 employees during the 5 days when the closure order was in effect (Sept. 7-11).

From the flag raising ceremony, the workers immediately proceeded to their work stations, as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) lifted its closure order effective yesterday.

It was also through Mayor Lobregat’s intercession that the BIR and the owners of the Shoppers’ group of companies have come to a temporary settlement whereby the BIR agreed to accept the owners’ partial payment of P5million with the appeal that the BIR make a reassessment/ recomputation of the taxes due.

Reports indicate that per BIR’s assessment, the company is deficient in the payment of the taxes representing Value Added Tax (VAT) at P54 million. The amount, however is being contested by the owners saying it is excessively high and that the assessment was done without proper data from their books of accounts.

Mengracia Benigno, one of the employees said she is thankful to Mayor Lobregat and Cong. Climaco for their individual efforts that helped paved the way for the timely though temporary solution to the problem.

Geraldine Pioc, a cashier in one of the stores said aside from Mayor Lobregat and Cong. Climaco, the workers are also grateful to the owners for acceding to the mayor’s request to pay the employees’ 5-day salaries even if the operations were temporarily suspended.

The employees said they feel bad about what happened and hoped that the tax issue will be finally resolved so that the operations of the 5 stores—Shoppers’ Central, Shoppers’ Plaza, Shoppers’ Emporium, Shoppers’ Center the Gateway and Shoppers’ Square—will not be hampered.

Mayor Lobregat was surprised to know about the employees’ presence during the flag raising ceremony yesterday morning. He thanked the BIR for accepting the initial payment made by the owners and for lifting the closure order for the benefit and welfare of the workers.

“We are really concerned about the plight of the workers,” he emphasized but how the owners and when the owners will pay the taxes due will be a matter that should be settled with the BIR. “That is why we appeal to all businessmen in Zamboanga to pay the correct taxes to the government to avoid a similar problem”.

Recall that Mayor Lobregat Friday afternoon met with the owners of the Shoppers’ group of companies and representatives of the employees as well as officials from the Department of Labor and Employment, Employees Confederation of the Philippines-Western Mindanao (ECOP-WM), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Public Employment Service Office and City Social Welfare and Development Office and the Zamboanga Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. to discuss about the welfare of the workers who are greatly affected by the temporary closure order.

It was during the meeting at City Hall that the mayor got the owners to commit to pay the salaries of the workers during the 5 days when the closure order was in effect. Total payment of the salaries for all the employees for 5 days is estimated to reach some P1 million.

Lobregat emphasized that the solution arrived at during the Friday conference in City Hall was not the end solution as the issue of paying the taxes is a matter that has to be settled by the owners and the BIR. “Our main concern here is the group of workers that will be affected by the order.”

On the other hand, the owners of the Shoppers’ Group of  Companies last Friday have expressed elation over Mayor Lobregat’s intercession that ended the stalemate between them and the BIR.

Alex Ang, one of the Shoppers’ owners, said Mayor Lobregat facilitated the negotiations between them (owners) and the BIR officials that paved the way for their partial payment of P5million last Thursday with the appeal for recomputation and reassessment of the taxes.

“Ware very happy because Mayor Lobregat was able to break the stalemate between us and the BIR, If not for the mayor, this temporary solution would not have been reached,” Alex Ang said after meeting Friday. — Sheila Covarrubias