Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Workers welcome solidarity from Catholic Church on PAL labor row

Press Statement
November 9, 2010
Gerry Rivera
PALEA President

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.

All the employees to be retrenched by PAL will indeed be absorbed by the service providers but only as contractuals. 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.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo captured our sentiments when he said that the Baldoz decision reflects the policy of the Aquino administration to continue rather than cure the virus of contractualization. The Philippines will be a much poorer country if we become a nation of contractuals.

This will not be a country fit for our children if no one will enjoy the dignity of a regular job. A regular job that provides decent wages, substantial benefits, security of tenure and the protection of a union should be the Filipino way of life. This is not an impossible dream for employers need only be guided by Christian teachings on sharing the fruits of production.

PAL workers warmly welcome the support of the Catholic Church for PALEA’s demand for social justice and the protection of regular jobs. A church-labor solidarity is just as important as the labor unity forged yesterday with the full spectrum of the trade union movement from the moderate to the militant championing PALEA’s fight for regular jobs.

PALEA calls for the resignation of Labor Sec. Baldoz and the intervention of President Benigno Aquino in suspending the implementation of the mass layoff. On Friday PALEA will also file a case at the Court of Appeals against the Baldoz decision.

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