Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The need for church-labor solidarity in PALEA’s fight for workers rights

April 5, 2011
Gerry Rivera
PALEA President

We ask today for the fullest support that the Catholic Church can provide the workers of Philippine Airlines (PAL). Our worse expectations are coming to pass. The Office of the President has allowed the outsourcing at PAL that will lead to the layoff of 2,600 workers, their transfer as contractuals to service providers and the virtual busting of our union, Philippine Airline Employees’ Association (PALEA), one the oldest unions in the country.

It seems that PAL had prior notice of the decision and that is the reason it was adamantly refusing to open negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) without preconditions. The Office of the President closed its eyes to the fact that PAL will retrench despite a $1.6 billion projected annual profit, a bountiful harvest of the fruits of production which the company does not want to share with its loyal and hardworking employees via a CBA. PAL’s not so hidden agenda is extend forever the suspension of the CBA that in the last 12 years has lead to the stagnation of the wages, benefits and protection on the one hand but on the other the further enrichment of Lucio Tan, already the second richest Filipino.

PALEA has been pushed to the wall and we prepared for a strike in order that our just demands are heard and met. But the government through a certification order from Labor Secretary Baldoz prevented us from using the workers weapon of last resort. This is the double standard of PNoy’s government: it has bound the hands of workers from fighting abuse and exploitation even as it has given freedom to Lucio Tan to layoff and outsource under the cover of management prerogative. PALEA has now been denied three rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution, ILO conventions and the Labor Code: security of tenure, collective bargaining and peaceful concerted activities including strike.

Any victory that PALEA will achieve in this fight will redound to the benefit not just of PAL employees but to all Filipino workers. PNoy’s approval of contractualization at PAL if not resisted will become policy. Regular jobs will be replaced by contractuals. Contractual workers will not have a chance to become regular employees. And the mass of unemployed will become even bigger under this system in which workers welfare are always sacrificed.

It is in this light that we appeal for the support of the Church. We believe that in this case, the Church will be pro-RH, that is in favor of Regular na Hanapbuhay, which is the essence of the demand of PALEA.

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.

We believe that church-labor solidarity is just as important as the labor unity forged in support of PALEA’s fight for regular jobs.

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