Last October 29 Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz released a decision that allows Philippine Airlines (PAL) to outsource its airport services, in-flight catering and call center reservations and layoff more than half of its workforce. The Halloween order will lead to the massacre of some 3,000 regular jobs and the death of the oldest union in the country.
The decision sets a dangerous precedent for it will open the floodgates to massive contractualization. Regular employees of PAL will be retrenched and then rehired as contractual workers in so-called third-party service providers. The work done at the service providers will be exactly the same but for cheaper wages, fewer benefits, no security of tenure and no protection of a union.
Moreover the decision disregards the specific provision of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that prohibits management from contracting out regular jobs and that restricts management prerogative. Also the decision accepted management’s blackmail that it will go bankrupt if not allowed to outsource work. However the financial statements and disclosures of PAL reveal that its business condition is improving and not deteriorating, thereby negating the necessity for retrenchment.
Baldoz engages in doublespeak when she claims that none of the PAL employees affected will be jobless. All the employees to be retrenched by PAL will indeed be absorbed by the service providers but only as contractuals. Not even Baldoz can assure that the employees hired by the service providers will become regular workers. In fact since the service providers can lay off the ex-PAL workers after only a few months, Baldoz ruling provides that PAL guarantee the wages of those affected for one year. As contractuals, ex-PAL workers would enjoy no security of tenure and thus can be legally fired at the whim of the service providers. Without a union, ex-PAL workers will have no protection and no voice as employees in the service providers.
The euphemistically termed “transition benefits” enumerated in the Baldoz ruling are mere artificial sweeteners to the bitter pill of contractualization. They may well be above the separation pay mandated by law and the CBA but it nonetheless cannot provide for a decent life to those facing the prospect of long-term unemployment.
A regular job that provides decent wages, substantial benefits, security of tenure and the protection of a union should not be an impossible dream. It is simply the best way for PAL to share the fruits of its employees’ labor. It is the kind of best practice a national flag carrier must adopt.
Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) calls on the President uphold his promise of change by reversing the Baldoz decision even as it plans to file a case at the Court of Appeals.