October 9, 2015
The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), the union of ground employees at Philippine Airlines (PAL), filed a notice of strike yesterday morning. The union cited unfair labor practice as basis for the strike. Under the law, PALEA has 15 days before it can actually hold a strike.
“We ask for the understanding of the public but a strike is necessary to defend the working conditions of PAL workers as the company is illegally interfering and coercing employees in the exercise of their constitutional right to self-organization. Also the mass termination of more than 100 PALEA members constitute another element of unfair labor practice,” explained Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido Manggagawa (PM).
Last September 2, 2015, PAL sent notices of termination to 117 employees, almost all PALEA members. The notice cited an alleged organizational restructuring which had rendered “several positions in the Company redundant.”
In a sign of renewed turbulence at PAL, last Wednesday several hundred members of PALEA, PM and labor center Sentro marched under the banner of the workers coalition Nagkaisa in Ayala, Makati to call for job security and a living wage in commemoration of World Decent Work Day. A highlight of the protest was a noise but peaceful picket at the PAL ticketing office at Allied Bank Building in Ayala to call for a boycott of PAL until the various labor disputes between PALEA and PAL are resolved.
“Yet no redundancy will happen since the workers to be retrenched will be replaced by new employees from agencies. The new round of layoffs is another wave of contractualization, changing regular unionized workers with contractual employees using agencies who will be paid less in wages and benefits,” insisted Rivera.
He added that “PAL is laying off workers at a time when it is swimming in profits. PAL’s parent company, PAL Holdings, reported a net income of P5.8 billion ($126.20 million) for the first half of 2015, soaring nearly ten-fold from P560 million ($12.18 million) during the same period last year.”
Rivera insisted that “While the notice states that the termination shall be effective on November 9, most of the employees who were notified were dismissed immediately upon being served. They were no longer allowed to work, as soon as they had been given the notice. Contractual employees with security escorts were already on standby and immediately replaced the terminated employees.”
PALEA sent a letter on September 5 to PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista to ask for the recall of the mass layoff. In the same letter, PALEA also repeated its request for the commencement of CBA negotiations, and the resumption of discussions for the implementation of the Settlement Agreement. “To date, PAL has not replied to any of these letters. In the face of such intransigence, a strike becomes imperative,” Rivera averred.
No collective bargaining negotiation between PAL and PALEA has happened since 1998 when a 10-year CBA suspension was imposed. After a two-year campaign, PALEA and PAL forged a deal to settle the labor dispute of 2011 yet some 600 retrenched members have not been re-employed as provided for in the agreement.