September 14, 2009
Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees held a noontime noise barrage against management’s plan to spinoff major operations. The protest at the PAL In Flight Center along Airport Road in Paranaque is only the first salvo of mass actions to stop the planned spinoff, according to Gerry Rivera, PAL Employees Association (PALEA) president and vice chairperson of the labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
“Spinoff aims to outsource work to companies also owned by Lucio Tan where workers will be non-union and thus receive cheaper wages, fewer benefits and have no security of tenure. Regular workers will be retired and then rehired as contractuals. This has happened before when work was spun off to Lufthansa Technik and Macro Asia, in which Lucio Tan both had major interests. Employees retrenched from PAL because of the spinoff was employed by Macro Asia and Lufthansa Technik on new contracts,” explained Rivera.
The planned spinoff to be implemented on November 15 will affect an estimated 2,000 workers in the airline’s catering, passenger handling, ramp handling and cargo handling operations. Rivera announced that a signature campaign against the spinoff is ongoing and beside the noontime protest today, a presscon and motorcade rally is planned for Wednesday.
Rivera insisted that “Even assuming the PAL is losing now, it however posted profits for several years before. So why is it that in times of crisis, workers are first to be sacrificed but in periods of boom, employees are last to benefit? Workers will resist paying for the price of the economic crisis that is not our fault.”
Quoting from PAL’s own website, he said that since 2000, the first year of the airlines’ rehabilitation program, it has been posting net earnings and that by 2007, it had a net income of $140.3 million for its fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, supposedly the largest annual profit in the airline's 66-year history.
“Spinoff is not a solution to company losses but a scheme to contractualize labor and raise more profit not from better efficiency of work but from greater exploitation of workers,” Rivera argued.
Labor contractualization is a major grievance of ordinary workers and the labor movement. PM is supporting the so-called Security of Tenure bill in Congress that provides for a cap on the number of contractual workers that can be hired by employers.