SPECIAL LABOR REPORT: Labor groups want PAL be ‘nationalized,’ stop contractualization of labor

Philippine Airline employees face a hard battle for their tenure as PAL management wants their labor contractualized and some of them sacked. (Photo courtesy by http://www.gamespot.com/users/jwlcarlos/view_image?id=bdQN5U8k7hqb4xzl)

MANILA, August 7, 2010—Group advocating job tenure in the Philippines, Tanggol Kabuhayan-Pilipinas (Tanggol Kabuhayan) condems the termination of more than 600 pilots of the Philippine Airlines and urges the government to nationalize Lucio Tan’s airline company.

In a statement, Tanggol Kabuhayan said that the PAL workers’ crisis is but a reflection of the continous neglect of the State of the good and welfare of the Filipino working class.

“We deem that this is also another round of neglect of the Philippine government to the workers and employees of Philippine Airlines and of the Filipino people,” read the statement of Tanggol Kabuhayan, published in the social networking site, Facebook.

More than 2,600 ground employees had been laid off from work as PAL turns to outsourcing, spin-off and contractualization of labor on differet departments such as Catering, Passenger Handling, Ramp Handling and Cargo Handling operations and other functions such as Information Technology, Revenue Accounting, Reservations and Call Centers, Medical and other Human Resource Operations.

The Aquino government, through the departments of Transportation and Communications, Justice and Labor, had tried to intervene on the PAL issue for the airline’s issue threaten the country’s economic health.

PAL’s profit decline, not true

On the isse of PAL suffering from “profit decline” due to the global economic crunch, Tanggol Kabuhayan said that Lucio Tan’s using the crisis as escapegoat in order not to pay what is due to its workers and employees, not to mention to justify the retrenchment.

“PAL Management is using the economic crisis to pass the brunt of the crisis to its workers and employees and systematically extract super profits and give way to the dictates of globalization that only serves for the greedy and selfish interest of the giant airline management headed by the country’s number 2 richest person, Chairman and CEO Mr. Lucio Tan. Lucio Tan’s income has increased from $1.5 billion to $ 1.7 billion on 2009 according to Forbes Asia Magazine. We believe that this is anti-worker, unjust and inhumane,” Tanggol Kabuhayan said.

Retrenchment in PAL not first time

But PAL is not a “first timer” on the issue of massive layoff of its employees.

During the onslaught of the Asian economic crisis in 1997 – 1999, more than 5,000 of its 14,000 strong workforce had been laid off.

As part of the “contingency” plan, the Philippine flag carrier had spun off the Maintenance and Engineering Department to a joint venture with the foreign owned Lufthansa Technik Philippines and Macro Asia Airport Services where many PAL employees were terminated and rehired as contractual employees in Lufthansa Technik and Macro Asia.

Using the Asian crisis, PAL management has imposed 11 years of state mandated moratorium and no negotiations in the Collective Bargaining Agreement since 1998.

Government partly to blame with PAL’s work crisis

Ironically, while the group urges the government to “takeover” PAL, the group says that they lacked confidence with the State as the latter is one espousing “neoliberal” policies or economic programs that are in line with globalization.

“We firmly stand that Philippine Airlines as the country’s Flag Carrier should be owned and controlled by the government and serve for the interest of the Filipino people and not of the few. But the government has imposed globalization policies; privatization, liberalization, deregulation, contractualization, sub-contracting and other forms of labor flexibilization that is destructive to the workers and people,” explains Tanggol Kabuhayan.

Condemning other ‘sins’ of PAL management

Moreover, Tanggol Kabuhayan said that PAL management had acted in “bad faith” with the the long overdue Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Flight Attendants and Stewardess Association, which has already expired since 2007.

“Instead [of acting on the CBA], a Discriminatory Compulsory Retirement Policy is being offered by the company: 40 years old for women and 45 for men. And different forms of Age and Gender Discrimination against PAL Flight attendants; penalization of pregnant flight attendant  (leave without pay, maternity leave is deducted from the years of service),” Tanggol Kabuhayan said.

Citing the Flight Attendants’ and Stewards’ Association of the Philippines’ (FASAP) statement, Tanggol Kabuhayan said, PAL’s decision on the issue of early retirment of women and “penalizing” of pregnant women, is rooted in “sexism, on the basis of their aesthetic qualities; marketing flight attendants as sex objects rather than their capability to ensure flight safety and comfort.”

Tanggol Kabuhayan, on the other hand, urges all Filipinos here and abroad to be united in defending their rights for security of tenure.

In order to solve PAL crisis, stop contractualization—KMU

In the meantime, militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno calls on the government to scrap contractualization to be able to solve labor problems just like of PAL’s, permanently.

KMU national chairperson Elmer Labog in a statement sent to CBCPNews said, though Malacañang is showing much effort in reconciling the pilots and the PAL management, arriving at some settlement will only be a “band-aid” solution to the problem.

“You mean, just because PAL management has agreed to some of the workers’ immediate demands, they have secured their jobs and livelihood? I don’t think so as contractualization of labor in different deparments of PAL is there, the 3,000 workers that had been laid off just cannot sit there and relax as they can be axed any time,” the labor leader said.

Labog revealed that about a year ago, the PAL management had announced that it will be implementing a spin-off on its airport services department that includes ground handling, cargo terminal/handling, and ramp handling, which currenlty employs 2,000 workers.

In addition to the airport services department, a spin-off on its workforce will also be implemented on PAL’s in-flight catering services (with 1,000 workers) and call center reservation department, with 170 agents to be affected.

A spin-off means a sale of the businesses and transfer to third-party providers of the said services, Labog explained.

“Ironically, the Labor Department ruled that this move of the PAL management is lawful, last June 15,” says Labog.

By doing this, PAL is expected to save around P500 million to P1 billion in monthly salaries of the workers, as PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna stated in media.

“Lucio Tan, the Philippine’s second richest tycoon, is always thinking about reducing costs, when PAL has actually a reported P369.58 million in net profits and P81.24 billion in total assets last year. How much more does he want to amass by exploiting workers?” Labog said.

Moreover, the militant labor leader said that unless DOLE reverses its decision allowing the massive contractualization of PAL workers, P-Noy’s administration will be seen as a protector of the interests of the elite, not of the people. (Written for CBCPNews.com)