August 10, 2013
The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately suspend assistant Diosdado Solidum Jr. and to dismiss the case against its 241 members. Solidum was arrested in an entrapment operation Thursday night for extorting P2.5 million from PALEA members in return for the dropping of charges for violation of Section 81 of the Civil Aviation Authority Act (CAAA).
“The arrest of Solidum is but a small step in our quest for justice. We hope that it will pave the way for the dismissal of the harassment case against PALEA. The protest PALEA launched against outsourcing in September 27, 2011 in our workplace was a Constitutionally-guaranteed right to seek redress of grievances and does not fall under the provisions of the CAAA which concerns disruption and destruction of airport services and facilities,” declared Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa.
Rivera added that “PALEA will fight all lawbreakers whether in barongs or in suits. PALEA members are victims of injustice not once but twice. First, some 2,000 workers were retrenched in a failed outsourcing scam and 241 members were charged in court for protesting. Then prosecutor Solidum tried to extort from retrenched and jobless workers,”
PALEA hailed DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima for authorizing the entrapment operation. “We need more de Limas and less Solidums in government if workers are to have a chance at attaining some measure of justice in this system. Truly the wheels of justice turn slow for workers but the arrest of Solidum should send a signal to all that the labor movement will fight to win.” Rivera ended.
PALEA and the new management of Philippine Airlines (PAL) under the San Miguel group are still in negotiations over the union’s demand for the return of retrenched workers to their regular jobs. Meanwhile the union continues to garner support as the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) welcomed the talks between PAL and PALEA to settle the long-running dispute.
In a statement released in mid-July after the announcement of the lifting of the European Union ban on PAL flights to the continent (http://www.itfglobal.org/news-online/index.cfm/newsdetail/9299), the ETF urged PAL to “come to a full and fair settlement.”
Further, delegates to the June 2013 Asia Pacific conference of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) restated their solidarity with PALEA. ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho promised the full support of all affiliates to use whatever legal means necessary to ensure justice for PALEA.