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PAL fires 117 employees; union files notice of strike

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association filed a notice of strike with the Department of Labor and Employment after Philippine Airlines terminated 117 employees

“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,” Palea president Gerry Rivera said.

“Also the mass termination of more than 100 Palea members constitute another element of unfair labor practice,” he said.

The union cited unfair labor practice as basis for the strike. Palea under the law has 15 days before it can actually hold a strike.

PAL on Sept. 2 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.”

Rivera said there was no redundancy since the workers to be retrenched would 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,” Rivera said.

He said PAL was laying off workers at a time when it was swimming in profits.

PAL’s parent firm, PAL Holdings Inc., recorded a consolidated total comprehensive income of P5.94 billion in the first half of the year, up 1,500 percent from just P362.4 million year-on-year.

Total revenues in the first half rose 14 percent to P55.95 billion from P48.95 billion a year earlier. Revenues in the second quarter reached P28.09 billion, up 2.9 percent from P27.23 billion.

“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,” Rivera said.

Palea sent a letter on Sept. 5 to PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista to ask for the recall of the mass layoff. In the same letter, Palea repeated its request for the start of the 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 said.

No collective bargaining negotiations between PAL and Palea were initiated 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 but some 600 retrenched members have not been re-employed as stipulated in the agreement.

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