February 28, 2015
Militants again won the elections for leadership of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), the union for ground crew of the national flag carrier. Since 2010, PALEA has been locked in a bitter dispute with Philippine Airlines (PAL) over outsourcing and contractualization. After more than two years in the picketlines, PALEA settled the dispute with PAL in November 2013.
A slate led by Gerry Rivera, incumbent PALEA president and vice chair of Partido Manggagawa (PM), won all the top executive positions and most of the union board officers in elections held over several days this week at PAL offices nationwide. They won on a platform of pushing for negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the full implementation of the settlement agreement.
After handily winning the PALEA elections, the Rivera-led leadership is extending the hand of cooperation to all groups in the union. “We appeal to all PALEA members, including candidates for the elections, to move forward and unite for our common interests as PAL employees. Its time to leave partisan politics behind and respect the will of the majority as the union faces the challenge of securing a pay hike, other benefits and job security,” Rivera stated.
He also called on management to work with PALEA in attaining the industrial peace needed in PAL’s corporate plans. “PALEA is more than willing to ensure industrial peace based on respect for labor rights and decent work, as we have formally communicated to PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista,” Rivera explained.
After the buyback by the Lucio Tan group of PAL, PALEA wrote the new management in December last year about reopening talks for a CBA and realizing the reinstatement provision of the settlement agreement.
Rivera elaborated that “Wages for PAL employees have not been increased over the past 17 years except for a few times because there have been no new bargaining negotiations since the controversial 1998 CBA suspension. After we took leadership of PALEA in 2010 we immediately proposed a new CBA but talks got stalled over PAL’s insistence that it should cover only employees that will not be outsourced. But with the resolution of the outsourcing dispute, it is high time to put the CBA negotiations back on the agenda, together with the reinstatement of the PALEA 600.”
PALEA 600 refers to the approximate number of members who opposed the outsourcing plan in 2011 and were covered by the settlement agreement in 2013. Some 2,400 PAL employees were laid off in September 2011 as a result of outsourcing but many were forced to take the separation offer over the course of the protracted dispute.