Saturday, October 15, 2011

PALEA’s Trailblazer Fight for Regular Jobs

Last September 27, the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) launched a protest against retrenchment and outsourcing that paralyzed the operations of Philippine Airlines (PAL). The response of PAL and the government was the forcible eviction of protesting PALEA members out of the airport and other offices using an overwhelming force of police and security guards. On October 1, PAL officially terminated some 2,600 employees in three departments—airport services, catering and call center reservations.

PALEA has set up protest camps outside the In-Flight Center near Terminal 2 of the Manila International Airport and outside the Mactan International Airport in Metro Cebu. Every day more than a thousand PALEA members are alternating in shifts to maintain the protest camps.

Despite the dispersal of protesting PALEA members, PAL has not been able to normalize the company’s operations. This exposes the failure of the outsourcing plan. It is the result of PALEA’s defiance to retrenchment and contractualization.

PALEA is calling on PAL to open talks for the resolution of the labor dispute and the normalization of the operations of the flag carrier.  We demand that PAL stop the lockout of workers and allow those terminated to go back to our regular jobs. The implementation of outsourcing should be halted until the courts have made a final decision.

There is a saying that Filipinos are like carabaos which are known to be patient and enduring but will fight back when abused and maltreated. For a long time, PAL employees have been patient carabaos. We have had no collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations since 1998 up to the present hence our salaries and benefits have remained almost the same.

PALEA’s sacrifice enabled PAL to recover and exit rehabilitation ahead of schedule. But in 2009, at a time when CBA negotiations should have started, PAL announced its outsourcing plan. Retrenchment and contractualization is PAL’s reward to the 13-year sacrifice of its employees!

If the retrenchment and contractualization will not be allowed, the company will go bankrupt and will not survive. This is PAL’s alibi. But what is the truth? PAL is not losing nor going bankrupt. Last year, its net income was $72.5 million or more than P3 billion. This is aside from paying $46.5 million or P2 billion in debts last year. This year PAL is projecting a modest profit. It is a lie that PAL is on the brink of ruin.

The truth is PAL wants to elude the CBA negotiations and bust the union. The 2,600 PAL regular employees will be turned into contractuals of three service providers—Sky Logistics, Sky Kitchen and SPI Global. In this way, workers’ wages will be cut down, benefits reduced, job security rid off and the union that is their voice and protection crushed.

As an example, a PAL senior reservations agent received P22,400 in salaries and allowances. If he/she transfers to SPI Global, he/she will be receiving only a P10,000 salary. A master mechanic of PAL has a salary of P28,000 but upon transfer to Sky Logistics will be given only a salary of P11,111.50.

We will be paid lower salaries but will be working longer hours. In the service provider, the workday is 8 hours for 6 days a week compared to 7.5 hours for 5 days a week at PAL. A PAL employee with 20 or 30 years of work experience will be turned into a probationary employee for six months when he/she transfers to the service provider!

No worker can live a decent life with the wages, benefits and working conditions of a contractual. Such a salary cannot cope with the rising prices of commodities. It won’t be enough to send children to school. Health care for family members will be out of reach. There is no future and dignity in contractual work.

That is why the overwhelming majority of PALEA members are holding their ground against retrenchment and contractualization. No more than 15% of affected employees accepted the separation offer. Less than 7% applied to the service providers.

Thus PAL’s planned retrenchment and contractualization could not take off. They have been unable to hire the needed number of people for the service providers and make PAL 100% operational. This exposes the myth that the terminated employees are in non-core operations. If these employees are not important, why then can’t PAL operate normally?

In desperation, PAL hired scabs a week before PALEA’s protest. PAL admitted to the Department of Labor and Employment that as early as September 19 they have started implementing the outsourcing plan.

PALEA was pushed to the wall. It was left with no other option but to hold the protest against retrenchment and contractualization. It was the only way left to defend the regular job of PAL employees.

We are calling on PAL—withdraw the planned outsourcing, stop the retrenchment and contractualization. The ball is in your hands to resolve the labor dispute. End the difficulties of PAL’s passengers and clients.

We appeal for the public’s understanding for any inconvenience brought about by the protest. Most of you are workers like us and should understand why we need to fight against contractualization. Safe and efficient service is guaranteed with PAL’s regular employees not with the contractual workers of the service providers.

PALEA is grateful to all who have been supporting our struggle for the past two years. Today we need your support more than ever.

Firstly, we are calling for concrete actions from labor groups, church institutions and other sectoral organizations to strengthen pressure on PAL on the one hand, and the government, on the other hand.

In addition, we are calling on all to visit the PALEA protest camps. Your presence will help sustain the high morale of PALEA members. You can also bring in assistance, in cash or in kind. Maintaining the protest camps with thousands of people is quite costly. The campouts needs food, water, tents, mats, etc.

To those wishing to donate, please deposit to:
Bank: RCBC
Branch: Baclaran
Account name: PALEA Strike Fund
Peso Savings Account: 1057-16092-3
Peso Current Account: 0057-01628-1
Dollar Account: 8057-00403-9

PALEA has been fighting for two long years to stop retrenchment and contractualization. Now is the time to win this battle.

This is a fight for our families. This is a fight for our future. This is a fight for all Filipino workers. Solidarity forever. The workers united will never be defeated.

For any questions or if you more information, contact us at:
Landline: 8511002 (PALEA), 4396829 (Partido ng Manggagawa)
Cellphone: 09209543634, 09175570777, 09228677522
Facebook: Sulong PALEANS!
Tweeter: manggagawa

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