April 6, 2011
The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) is organizing its planned protests and even strike through Facebook and social media aside from the traditional forms. “We plan to test the law, and defy the assumption and certification order of the Labor Secretary which has been abused to deny workers their means of defense. We will be maximizing Facebook and social media in organizing the strike and other protests just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia did,” revealed Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and Partido ng Manggagawa vice chair.
PALEA has not announced any date for the planned “Facebook strike” but has been busy building support for it. Today PALEA and other labor groups will meet with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who is also head of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, to seek the support of the Catholic Church and map out coordinated actions. Also today, PALEA will sit with TUCP officials to plan a “workers caravan” that will make the rounds of industrial areas and economic zones to popularize the campaign against contractualization.
In the two big rallies that PALEA has called, one in Ayala, Makati in November 25 last year and then last Friday at the airport, the union has used Facebook to mobilize its own members and gather support from public. “Since a majority of PALEA members are on Facebook, it is easy to connect with them social media. We have tried it and it is effective. The Labor Secretary can abuse her power to suppress the right to strike but the government cannot afford to shutdown the internet,” Rivera explained.
Rivera clarified that he himself is not on Facebook but there is a Sulong PALEANS! group through which some 700 PALEA members communicate. There is a separate PALEA Women’s Committee Facebook group which has more than 200 members, mainly female PAL ground crew, that also serves as a tool to organize and mobilize. The November 25 Day of Action and the strike dress rehearsal last Friday were both announced as events on Facebook to which friends and the public were invited to attend.
These Facebook pages were set up last year as the protests against the planned layoff and contractualization escalated. Besides the PALEA Facebook groups, the protest campaign is also echoed in the pages of allied organizations. The Facebook group of Partido ng Manggagawa mirrors many of the exchanges, images and videos posted on the PALEA pages. The Facebook page of the blogger Juan Manggagawa similarly carries the content of PALEA’s campaign against contractualization. PALEA’s campaign is also featured on the website of the International Transport Workers Federation, the 4.6 million-strong global union to which PALEA is affiliated.
Other than images and videos of PALEA protests and activities since April 2010 when PAL gave termination notices to its employees, posted on these Facebook sites are leaflets, posters and even scanned copies of the decisions rendered by two Labor Secretaries and the Office of the President on the controversial outsourcing plan.