Philippine Airlines prepares vs workers strike-A A +A
Friday, April 1, 2011
MANILA -- Ground workers of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) said Friday that they are prepared to hold a nationwide strike anytime next week, as airline management set up plans to cushion the labor strike's effects to its passengers.
Despite efforts by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) to mediate, the Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (Palea) on Friday declared its readiness to hold their first nationwide strike since 1998.
Palea president Gerry Rivera said the group is ready to hold their strike any day after Friday, which is the last day of the seven-day cooling-off period.
"The 3,500 members of Palea are 100 percent ready for a strike that will paralyze the operations of Philippine Airlines (PAL) that is in cahoots with the Aquino government," said Rivera.
A senior airline official, however, said administrative employees of PAL are ready to take over ground operations if the protest strike pushes through.
"Many PAL administrative employees, and even union members themselves, believe that a strike will not do the company any good. As such, they are ready to man posts to be vacated by protesting workers," Jaime Bautista, president and chief operating officer of PAL, said in a statement.
At the same time, the PAL official assured its passengers that the national flag carrier is ready for a "worst case scenario" in an actual work stoppage.
"We apologize to our passengers for whatever anxiety and inconvenience threats of work stoppage have spawned. Rest assured we are doing everything we can to ensure that your flights will proceed as scheduled," he added.
Last week, Palea's second strike vote showed that 95 percent of Palea members are in favor of holding a strike after April 1.
The second voting concerns the union's call for PAL to start collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations despite the then absence of a Palace ruling over the outsourcing dispute.
Bautista said the planned strike has no legal basis.
"First, it's not true that management refuses to convene negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement as claimed by the PAL Employees Association (Palea). Second, the union's claim that there is no justifiable reasons for the spin-off of three units - Airport Services, In-flight Catering and Call Center Reservations - likewise have no leg to stand on," he said.
PAL's spin-off plan was thrice upheld as legal and valid by the labor secretaries of the past and present administrations.
Last March 25, the President Benigno Aquino III upheld PAL's right to spin off its three units to third party service providers, saying "PAL could not be held liable for unfair labor practice for pursuing a legitimate exercise of management prerogative."
But, Rivera said only the management of the country's flag carrier can stop the actual strike by giving in to the demands of the employees.
"The only thing that can prevent a strike is for PAL to heed the demand to stop outsourcing and open CBA negotiations without preconditions," said Rivera.
Earlier this week, the Dole and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board conducted conciliation hearings between PAL and Palea.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz still has the option to assume jurisdiction over the labor dispute as provided for by the Labor Code of the Philippines since a work stoppage at the flag carrier could affect national interest. (FP/AMN/Sunnex)