February 27, 2010
Militants won a landslide victory in the elections for the Philippine Airlines (PAL) ground crew union, 12 years after the controversial moratorium in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) of 1998. Campaigning on a platform of defending job security, the militants will immediately face a challenge as PAL reportedly plans to spinoff departments and layoff employees this coming April.
“After 12 long years, PAL employees again have a union that will protect their rights and welfare, including job security,” exclaimed Gerry Rivera, who will assume on March 29 the position of president of the PAL Employees Association (PALEA), which is one of the biggest unions in the country with about 4,000 members.
Members of the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) won the top three national union positions and their local party called Sulong PALEANS cornered 13 of the 21-member union board. The elections were held last Thursday, February 25, but the ballots were only finally tallied last night with the winners proclaimed by the union Comelec and DOLE-NCR representatives.
Rivera is also vice chairperson of PM and has been a nominee of the group in the past party-list elections. He was vice president of PALEA during the PAL strike of 1998 which was arguably the biggest labor dispute of the 90’s. After owner Lucio Tan temporarily shutdown PAL, PAL employees were forced to agree to a 10-year CBA moratorium that has been extended twice since 2008.
The fight against spinoff and outsourcing will be a key task of the incoming union leadership according to Rivera. September of last year, PAL management announced that it will outsource passenger handling, ramp handling, cargo handling and catering by November that will result in the layoff of at least 2,000 PAL employees. Rivera’s Sulong PALEANS led protests by PAL employees that temporarily shelved the plan.
Rivera also revealed that PALEA will now insist on negotiations for a new CBA. “Through the CBA, we will ensure that security of tenure is guaranteed. No spinoff or layoff must happen if the union does not agree,” he explained.
“Contractualization is a virus that has ravaged the workers, depriving them of security of tenure, decent wages and benefits. If PAL employees are successful in resisting management’s drive to outsource work, then hopefully we can help reverse the epidemic of contractualization. The defeat of the 1998 PALEA strike and the 10-year moratorium opened a period of retreat for the labor movement. But a victorious fight against spinoff and layoff in PAL can be a turning point in the revival of working class struggles for job security,” stated Rivera.