MANILA -- Beleaguered flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is hoping the labor woes that beset the company will be fully addressed in the scheduled talks with two groups this week.

In a statement, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said they wanted to resolve “fruitfully” the issues they had with the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap) and PAL Employees Association (Palea).

“We're open to a dialogue. It’s just give-and-take. I hope we will all come to the negotiating table with open minds and hearts as we discuss issues. I know the families of our employees are anxious too and want to see the issues resolved amicably and as promptly as possible. We share their concern,” said Bautista.

The PAL management and Fasap officials are scheduled to meet on August 12 at the Department of Labor and Employment’s National Conciliation and Mediation Board to tackle their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The CBA between PAL and Fasap has expired in July 2007 with Fasap accusing the management of acting on bad faith.

But PAL has since denied this, adding that the management is willing to find a middle ground with Fasap in order to resolve the pending issues, which include the stalled pay increase for flight attendants in 2007 and 2008 and the lowering of retirement age.

On August 5, Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court struck down PAL’s policy that forces male and female flight attendants hired before November 1996 to retire at ages 60 and 55, respectively.

The stewardesses went to the court to contest the said policy after calling it gender discriminatory. However, the carrier even lowered the retirement age to 40 in 2000.

As this developed, Bautista said they are still hoping that the 26 pilots, who earlier left the airline for better opportunities abroad, will report to work today (Monday).

"PAL, government, and the entire nation are waiting for their return so they can render service not only to PAL but the general public," he said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)