Sunday, October 31, 2010

PAL union slams final DoLE decision on layoff

Press Release
October 31, 2010

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA), the ground crew union at the national flag carrier, slammed the final decision of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to allow the planned mass layoff of some 3,000 employees. Gerry Rivera, president of PALEA and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), stated that “The Department of Labor and Employment’s go signal for the retrenchment of half of the workforce means the death of job security at Philippine Airlines.”

Last Friday Labor Sec. Baldoz denied PALEA’s motion for reconsideration and affirmed the previous order by then Acting Labor Sec. Romeo Lagman. Both Baldoz and Lagman found the planned mass layoff to be a legitimate exercise of “management prerogative.”

Rivera announced that the union intends to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeals. Tomorrow PALEA together with PM will hold a mass action at the DoLE main office in Intramuros to denounce the order of Baldoz. The protesters plan to bring a mock coffin with the message “RIP PAL Workers” and an effigy of Baldoz as the mythical “Kamatayan.”

Rivera explained that Baldoz’ decision entirely disregarded the unions’ arguments and merely reiterated PAL ’s position that it must outsource work to service providers in order to be financially viable. “The order is not a win-win solution that balances the interest of workers for job security and management for financial viability. Instead it is simply management’s slightly improved offer disguised as DoLE’s decision,” he insisted. Baldoz’ order, compared to Lagman’s, provides for a gratuity of P50,000 per employee and 125% separation pay instead of 100%.

Rivera added that “Baldoz’ order means the green light for contractualization at PAL via a retrench-rehire scheme. PAL will retrench 3,000 regular unionized workers who will be rehired as contractuals by service providers that are partly owned by Lucio Tan. The loss of 3,000 regular jobs cannot be compensated by the creation of 3,000 new contractual positions. Baldoz’ decision released on the eve of All Souls’ Day is symbolic for it will conjure up 3,000 zombie positions which will have cheaper wages, less benefits, no security of tenure and no protection by a union.”

PALEA also declared that the mass action tomorrow is just the start of a series of protests by PAL employees and their supporters from the labor movement. An assumption of jurisdiction order from DoLE had prevented PALEA from holding mass actions including a strike since April this year. A similar assumption order was imposed on the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines while a decision remains pending at the office of Sec. Baldoz regarding the separate dispute about retirement age and other issues.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Solidarity Message to the November Workers Rally in Japan

Greetings of solidarity!

In the name of the working class of the Philippines, the Partido ng Manggagawa or Labor Party, extends the long hand of solidarity to the workers of Japan and other countries who are participating in the November Workers Rally. The call of the November Workers Rally for the establishment of a nationwide network of militant unions in Japan to lead the revival of the labor movement and the fight against the onslaught of neoliberal globalization is utterly correct and necessary.

All over the world, workers are facing the vicious attack of the capitalists and their governments against labor standards and workers rights. As international capitalism plunges into a deep and historic crisis, the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions worsens ever more. The working class is being made to pay the price of a crisis that is not of its own making.

We fully understand the plight of the 1047 dismissed national railway workers. We also recognize the negative impact of privatization and deregulation on workers and the people. In fact the very same issues animate the struggles that are being launched by workers in the Philippines.

In the Philippine Airlines, our national flag carrier, more than half of the workforce, some 3,000 workers, is facing retrenchment. Regular unionized employees will be replaced by agency workers who will have cheaper wages, less benefits, no security of tenure and no right to organize. While the plight of workers when the Philippine Airlines was nationalized was no heaven, it has become hell after the flag carrier was privatized and bought by the second richest man in the Philippines.

The fight for job security and workers rights at Philippine Airlines is the biggest labor dispute in the country. Not only is it a litmus test of the labor policy of the new government in the Philippines but it is a trailblazer struggle for the workers movement. The future of labor relations and the labor movement depends on the outcome of the fight between labor and capital in Philippine Airlines.

The defense of labor standards and workers rights is the content of the struggle at Philippine Airlines and in other establishments, factories, shops and offices in our country. In fact it is the same everywhere else for workers. In Japan, you call agency workers as dispatch workers. In the Philippines we call them contractual workers. The term is different but the conditions are the same for all workers exploited by the greed of capitalists.

The same issues confront workers in the Philippines that are employed by Japanese transnational corporations. Many of the 600,000 export zone workers in the Philippines are employees of Japanese companies, which are arguably the biggest investors at the moment. The most prevalent issues of export zone workers are violations of mandated labor standards, restrictions on the freedom to organize, and restraints on the right to peaceful concerted actions including strikes.

Indeed there is much that binds the workers of the Philippines and Japan in particular and of other countries in general. If not for the labor dispute at Philippine Airlines, I would have also participated in the international conference and workers rally in Japan. Still the workers of the Philippines are one in spirit with the call and demands of the November Workers Rally for defense of workers rights and the fight against neoliberal globalization.

Gerry Rivera
Vice Chairperson, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
President, Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Violations of Workers Rights in the Philippines in 2010

Aside from the worst forms of labor repression such as the killings of union leaders and members that are well documented by human rights groups, workers in the Philippines suffer from a host of other violations of internationally recognized and constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.

A particular section of the working class, those working in the special economic zones, deserve particular concern in terms of the observance of labor standards and labor rights. The most common grievances of export zone workers revolve around violations of security of tenure, such as illegal dismissal and illegal suspension; non-remittance of social security premiums, withholding taxes, employees' compensation and health premiums; non-payment/underpayment/late payment of mandated benefits such as 13th month pay, 5 days service incentive leave, overtime pay and paternity leave; lack of transparency in employment contracts; imposition of excessive production quota; verbal humiliation and physical abuse of workers; restrictions of the freedom to organize including blacklisting of unionists; and restraints on the right to peaceful concerted actions including strikes.

The town of Rosario, Cavite hosts the biggest economic zone. In the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ) are based more than 300 locators which employ an estimated 70,000 workers, a majority of them women. In May this year some 100 retrenched workers of Dyna Image, a Taiwanese-owned electronics firm, setup the first ever campout at the CEZ in protest at the refusal of management to heed the workers demand for rotation instead of layoffs. The campout lasted for only 24 hours without the workers demands being met because of the threat by the CEZ administrator and the local police that the peaceful action will be dismantled.

Another illustrative case of restriction in the freedom to unionize is the pending labor dispute at Best Chemical and Plastics Phils. Inc. (BCPI), a Korean-owned factory in the town of Carmona, Cavite. The union won a certification election last July despite management interference in the exercise of the right to organize, and collusion by local government officials and Labor Department functionaries. Management has a pending protest at the results of the certification elections. The union has filed a notice of strike due to the company’s refusal to bargain.

One of the largest export zones is the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Lapu-Lapu City in the province of Cebu. There are some 200 companies in MEZ I and MEZ II employing an estimated 50,000 workers but not a single union presently exists in the zone.

The latest attempt to form a union was the Alta Mode Workers Union in a garments export firm that supplies to Abercrombie and Fitch among other world famous brands. Unfortunately the union lost the certification election due to successful interference by management and collusion by Labor Department officials. All the union members were put on forced leave on the day of the certification election. The Labor Department allowed and counted the votes of supervisory and contractual workers who were not part of the bargaining unit.

Finally Alta Mode locked out the workers early this year and then closed the factory. The Alta Mode workers setup a three-month long campout at the gates of MEZ II. There was a failed attempt by the private security guards to demolish the campout and repeated threats to dismantle it despite its peaceful and legal nature. The workers finally settled with management because of the pressure of an unfavorable but questionable decision from a labor arbiter. The arbiter found the Alta Mode workers guilty of an illegal strike for holding a sit-in protest at the factory. The workers assert that the protest did not constitute a strike—and thus cannot be found illegal on procedural grounds—for they were then on forced leave and in fact were demanding that they be allowed to return to work.

The Alta Mode campout was the peak of a wave of labor unrest in Cebu that came as a result of the deleterious impact of global economic crisis on jobs, wages and working conditions. Workers involved in the wave of protests complain that not a single one of them have received financial assistance from the Labor Department despite meeting the requirements. Furthermore, an informant has revealed that the Alta Mode unionists are effectively blacklisted from employment in the MEZ since locators haven been furnished copies of their names.

Arguably the biggest labor issue this year is the dispute at the Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier. It showcases government abuse of the power to intervene in labor disputes that are “imbued with national interest” in the opinion of the Labor Secretary.

The Labor Code allows the Secretary of Labor to assume jurisdiction (AJ) of disputes and enjoin the right to strike. The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), the ground crew union, is protesting against the planned mass layoff of some 3,000 employees and contractualization of work.

The AJ on the PAL dispute was dated April 23, 2010 and came just a few days after Department Order DO 40-G-03 series of 2010 amended the rules on strikes. It is dated March 29, 2010 and took effect 15 days after publication. DO 40 was supposed to be a reform in the wake of the ILO High Level Mission last year. The ILO High Level Mission conducted an investigation into the government’s enforcement of Convention 87 on the freedom of self-organization and Convention 98 on the right to collective bargaining amidst allegations by workers groups of employer interference and state indifference if not collusion.

In the PAL case, Sec 15 (conditions for assuming jurisdiction) of DO 40 was violated since (1) no conference was called by the Labor Department on the propriety of an AJ and (2) the union did not request for an AJ. Also Sec 17 (rendering decisions) was violated since the Acting Labor Secretary penned a decision even though the case was not yet submitted for resolution. The rules provide that decision should be made within 30 days after being submitted for resolution. A decision unfavorable to the union ("layoff is legal exercise of management prerogative") was dated June 15 even though mediation proceedings were still ongoing then.

A motion for reconsideration was filed by PALEA on June 28. On the strength of a petition sent by the union to President Benigno Aquino, he has ordered the new Labor Secretary to "review and evaluate" the decision, which remains pending to this day. Last September, PALEA formally asked the Labor Secretary to declare the planned mass layoff as illegal and for PAL to be found guilty of unfair labor practice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cavite workers withdraw strike plan as company agrees to negotiate CBA

Press Release
October 19, 2010

The labor union at the Best Chemical and Plastics Inc. / Best Chemicals Inc. (BCPI BCI), a Korean-owned factory at Carmona, Cavite, withdrew its notice of strike yesterday as management agreed to start negotiations for a first collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Dennis Sequena, an officer of Partido ng Manggagawa in Cavite who are supporting the BCPI workers, stated that “The start of CBA negotiations at BCPI is a breakthrough for labor rights.”

In a marathon mediation meeting last night at the BCPI compound facilitated by the Region IV-A office of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the union and management signed a memorandum of agreement. The agreement stipulates that the union withdraws its pending of strike, that union and management agrees to the ground rules for CBA negotiations, and that management will submit its CBA counter proposal in the first meeting set on October 27.

Meanwhile Alex del Rosario, president of the BCPI BCI Independent Union, declared that “The right to organize a union and bargain collectively has been an uphill battle won through the unity and determination of workers.” Del Rosario averred that the union is hopeful that the agreement will be kept by management but declared that they are ready to push through with the planned strike if the MOA is violated.

The workers would have held the strike today after the lapse of the 15-day cooling off period and the 7-day notification period. The union had submitted the results of the strike vote last October 11 to the NCMB.

Sequena called on the government to respect the workers exercise of the freedom to unionize and bargain. He added warned that “The spotlight is still on the Philippines since it was only last year that the ILO sent a high level mission to investigate the government’s enforcement of Convention 87 on the freedom of self-organization and Convention 98 on the right to collective bargaining amidst allegation of employer interference and state indifference if not collusion.”

The union filed a notice of strike last September 27 on grounds of management’s refusal to bargain. Management repeatedly ignored the union’s request to table the CBA proposal it submitted. After an inconclusive mediation meeting called by the NCMB IV-A last October 8, the union held a strike vote. The workers decided overwhelmingly to hold a strike with 60 voting yes, none voting no but with one spoiled ballot out of 71 union members.

Sequena quoted the US State Department’s recent “2009 Human Rights Report on the Philippines” in which it is avowed that “Labor law applies uniformly throughout the country, including in the special economic zones (SEZs); however, local political leaders and officials who governed the SEZs attempted to frustrate union organizing efforts by maintaining union-free or strike-free policies.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

PAL union submits CBA proposal after 12-year moratorium

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), the union of ground personnel in the Philippine Airlines (PAL), submitted yesterday its proposal for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the first time after a moratorium that started in 1998. “This is a momentous event because for more than 10 years there have been no negotiations for the improvement of workers benefits,” stated Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and concurrent vice chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa.

The PAL-PALEA CBA was put on moratorium for 10 years in the wake of the bitter 1998 labor dispute that saw a pilots’ and ground crew strike, and the closure of the national flag carrier. The moratorium has been extended for two more years under the term of previous union leaderships.

The present PALEA leadership under Rivera, which was elected last February, submitted a proposal to cover the years 2008 to 2013. Rivera explained that “We believe that the CBA should retroact to 2008 since the CBA moratorium was only for 10 years not 12.”

The CBA proposal was received by no less than PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista yesterday at 11:30 a.m. “We expect management to respond to our proposal and negotiate in good faith,” Rivera insisted.

Among the salient points of the CBA proposal is the updating and upgrading of the pay scale. “Too much wage distortion has been done to the pay scale so that there exists not only a severe contraction but to a certain extent an elimination of the quantitative differences between the job grades. We now aim to correct these distortions,” Rivera argued.

The proposal retains but revises the provision of the old CBA prohibiting contracting out of existing positions, jobs, divisions and departments presently occupied by present or future regular employees. The proposal improves on the old by explicitly barring outsourcing. Rivera added that “This particular provision protects job security and union representation. The planned mass layoff of some 3,000 PAL workers is illegal because of this CBA provision.”

The CBA proposal also contains provisions that enhance the retirement scheme. “This is our way of saluting, recognizing and giving tribute to our loyal PAL workers and union members,” Rivera ended.

PAL is concurrently negotiating a CBA with its flight crew. The negotiations have however been deadlocked over disputes of retirement age and gender discrimination. The dispute has been assumed by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz. The PAL-PALEA row over the mass layoff has similarly been assumed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Militant workers won’t dance to anti-women gimmickry

Press Statement
4 October 2010

While the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) continue to battle with the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management against discriminating female flight attendants, here comes Cebu Pacific Airlines with dancing female flight crew in the skies.

On numerous occasions and opportunities, FASAP has explained that flight attendants and stewards are safety personnel rather than on-board entertainers. The Philippine Commission on Women has also denounced PAL’s discriminatory policies against female attendants, including the 40-year old retirement age.

The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), whether female flight attendants of Cebu Pacific agrees or not with dancing as part of their job, denounces this “gimmick” of the airline for the purpose of attracting more passengers, especially male passengers.

This is not only a cheap strategy but totally anti-women. It is akin to noontime television shows’ use of women’s body to attract more viewers and advertisements for profit.

It is unfortunate that business people would do everything to advance its technology but would hold on to archaic views and treatment of women workers for the sake of competition and bigger revenues.