Saturday, November 13, 2010

Global union pledges aid to PALEA

Media Release
12 November 2010
International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)

Global union federation the ITF today pledged its support for the PALEA union and renewed its call to Philippines President Benigno Aquino to avoid a huge loss of jobs at Philippine Airlines (PAL).

The ITF – International Transport Workers’ Federation – has been backing PALEA (Philippine Airlines Employees Association) in its defence of jobs and conditions at the airline. The ITF is now redoubling its efforts, following the decision by the country’s Labor Ministry not to block the probable laying off of up to 3,000 workers in Philippine Airlines’ service divisions. The ITF has therefore put its 781 member trade unions on standby to be ready to assist, and has written to President Aquino. Details of the ITF’s Save Our PAL’s Jobs campaign can be found at

The Labor Ministry’s decision confirms one made by the previous Philippine government, that the retrenchment of jobs is permissible as ‘a valid exercise of management prerogative’. PALEA and the ITF are seeking to persuade the government of Benigno Aquino that the move, if permitted, would further aggravate strained labour relations within the airline, weaken PAL, and could be construed as asset stripping of PAL and an attempt to weaken the union and neutralise its defence of its members’ jobs.

In the latest appeal to President Aquino the ITF’s General Secretary, David Cockroft stated that:

“Events at the airline will be well known to you, including the widely reported hiving off by owner Lucio Tan of its most profitable service divisions and their subsequent renaming and incorporation into his own companies, the resulting risk to jobs, and the alleged attempt to neuter any dissent from within the airline by breaking its workers’ union of choice, PALEA.”

He continued: “We are not alone in finding Lucio Tan an unlikely candidate to run such a large and important airline. The sources of the wealth in the Marcos era that reportedly enabled him to do so and the apparent influence he was able to exert over former President Estrada are no secret. If these facts were not enough to create disquiet about his qualifications then his often cited aggressive and hamfisted approach to labour relations would be. We are glad that your government has taken an interest in trying to set right some of the failures of the past. We particularly congratulate you on setting up the Truth Commission, with its mandate to expose corporate and political corruption. Nevertheless, we must respectfully state that we believe the decision of 31st October by your Labour and Employment Secretary to allow the ‘retrenchment’ layoff of 3,000 PAL workers is wholly wrong.”

David Cockroft went on to say: “The potential result of such a decision, if it not rescinded, has been concisely described by PALEA President Gerry Rivera as meaning the death of job security at Philippine Airlines. We, like PALEA, believe it will usher in not just the layoff and possible reemployment without protection and on inferior terms of those 3,000 people, but will also accelerate the decline and dissension that is wracking your nation’s national carrier. We therefore ask you and your government to reconsider the decision most urgently. We understand that it was taken in the belief that the jobs ‘sacrifice’ falls under the provisions of a legitimate exercise of management prerogative but we urge you to reconsider the actual legitimacy of Lucio Tan’s management, the seemingly antagonistic way it has been exercised, and the grave damage that management has reportedly caused to operations, to labour relations, and to the formerly good name of Philippines Airlines. Set in that context, we believe, your Government’s decision cannot be allowed to stand.”

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