4 thoughts on “Economic crisis, workers resist

  1. Aquino asks legal team if PAL union can be sued
    By Christian V. Esguerra, Jerome Aning, Paolo G. Montecillo
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    1:31 am | Thursday, September 29th, 2011

    Thousands of passengers were stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 in Pasay City after Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees staged a walkout early Tuesday. PHOTO BY RODEL ROTONI

    A dismayed President Aquino has ordered Malacañang lawyers to check whether Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees who staged a wildcat strike on Tuesday that canceled flights and stranded thousands of passengers could be charged in court.

    The President said in Tokyo that he initially considered the move by the PAL Employees? Association (Palea) a form of ?economic sabotage,? but later decided to allow his legal team to look more closely into the work stoppage.

    ?I thought about that this morning,? he told members of the Philippine media delegation over coffee at the Imperial Hotel late Tuesday night.

    Mr. Aquino said he had been informed about a previous meeting wherein Palea supposedly said its members had ?no plans to embark on such an activity.?

    He said the group should have issued a 24-hour notice that its members would stop working. ?They didn?t do any of those things and there was even a typhoon,? he said.

    Quoting a provision in the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008, he said the employees could be ?penalized with imprisonment ranging from one year to three years or a fine of not less than P50,000, but not exceeding P500,000 or more as determined by the court.?

    Considered an ?act leading to the disruption of airport services,? he noted, was the refusal of an employee to ?perform tasks such as personally manning checking counters, to check in passengers.?

    ?Our lawyers are still checking how clear the violations are,? he said.

    Mr. Aquino?s boss

    Palea shot back at Mr. Aquino, calling him someone working for the airline owner.

    ?Instead of asking Philippine Airlines to open talks with Palea on how to resolve the dispute, [he] now threatens workers who are protesting to air their grievances. Apparently, Mr. Aquino?s boss is Lucio Tan, not ordinary workers,? said Palea president Gerry Rivera.

    Rivera contested Mr. Aquino?s claim that Palea had promised to provide a 24-hour notice for its protest action.

    ?We do not know where he got that. But it is a fact that Palea had repeatedly called on PAL to resolve the dispute, to no avail. Thus, Palea announced publicly that it would hold a protest without notice but PAL foolishly dismissed our declaration and instead assured the public that a disruption of flights would not happen,? he said.

    Economic sabotage

    ?The loss of jobs is also economic sabotage by a capitalist to the worker,? Rivera said. ?PAL is guilty of 2,600 counts of economic sabotage. Why is President Aquino not considering that??

    Palea said it staged the work stoppage to protest PAL?s plan to close down three departments?call center reservations, in-flight catering and airport services?by the end of the week.

    Some 2,600 employees covered by the job cuts were offered positions at third-party service providers that will replace the three closed departments.

    But the union claims only 7 percent accepted jobs with Sky Kitchen, Sky Logistics and SPi Global Holdings, the three companies hired to replace the units to be closed.

    Palea said the job cuts, which the labor department and the Office of the President had approved, should not be carried out because it was under appeal in the Court of Appeals.

    More flights canceled

    A day after Palea went on strike, more PAL flights were canceled on Wednesday, as the company lacked the manpower to immediately replace the workers who walked out.

    The airline management said it could not run on full capacity due to damaged equipment, which the company blamed on union members.

    ?It will take some time for PAL?s operations to fully normalize but the airline is determined to get back on its feet and move forward,? said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

    Villaluna said 62 domestic and 40 international flights remain canceled. The complete list of flights is available at http://www.philippineairlines.com.

    Among those canceled were nine flights in Cebu and Tacloban cities after the management did not allow workers, who participated in the crippling work stoppage on Tuesday, to return to work.

    At least 450 passengers in Tacloban were affected, said Carlos Serrano, PAL manager for Tacloban.

    ?Our immediate objective is to restore flights,? said Joey de Guzman, PAL vice president for corporate communications.

    On Tuesday, about 300 PAL employees reported for work at Terminal 2 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport but stopped doing their jobs starting 7 a.m. The company was forced to cancel 172 domestic and international flights, affecting 14,000 passengers, as authorities tried to remove the striking workers from their posts.

    At around 6 p.m., PAL security, police and aviation security, and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) were able to persuade striking Palea workers to yield control of PAL?s check-in terminals, cargo, catering and ramp areas.

    Equipment disabled

    To the airline?s surprise, many pieces of equipment were found to be damaged or disabled intentionally by Palea members before leaving the airport?s premises, Villaluna said.

    She said equipment such as pushback tractors, tow tugs and deck loaders were all ?made inoperable.?

    Palea answered back, saying that the damage to equipment was not caused by the dispersal process. Rivera said PAL decided to field untrained personnel to replace striking workers.

    The door of an Airbus A340 with aircraft ID 3430 was damaged when a reliever who was an unlicensed PAL staff misused the air step, Palea said.

    ?This accident reveals the dangers of inexperienced contractual employees at work. We know that passengers were inconvenienced by the protest but they should understand that airline safety and efficiency is ensured by regular not contractual labor,? Rivera said.

    PAL was forced to bring in Sky Kitchen, Sky Logistics and SPi Global Holdings on Wednesday to replace the Palea staff, who are now considered on leave with pay until October 1?the end of their employment contracts.

    Harsh treatment

    The union denounced the harsh treatment of its members when they were physically removed from their stations by PAL and airport security personnel.

    ?PAL employees Kathleen Yumol, Rhonan Alonzo, Christian Concepcion were hurt in the dispersal at Terminal 2 led by a combined force of hundreds of security guards,? Rivera said.

    Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, however, approved of the removal from Terminal 2 of Palea members, who have been declared on official leave by the management until September 30.

    Almost a thousand Palea members and their supporters from church and labor groups Wednesday picketed the PAL In-Flight Center on MIA Road in Pasay City.

    PAL shares blame

    Officials at the labor department and the MIAA said PAL management also shared the blame for the inconvenience suffered by passengers whose flights were canceled.

    The labor officials, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the issue, said PAL should have conducted its ?transition period? much earlier.

    ?Last week, there were commotions when PAL tried several times to replace the regular workers from their posts at Naia 2. Of course, the Palea members refused to budge. So on Tuesday, PAL management simply cut off Palea members? access to the check-in computers and other electronic equipment,? an official said.

    Another labor official added: ?PAL announced a few weeks ago significant cuts in its domestic and international flights leading to the start of the outsourcing scheme. This only means the 2,600 positions that would be vacated will not be filled on time. The government as well as the public, through the media, should have anticipated that there would be delays.?

    Eutiquio Bulambot, a member of the Palea board in Cebu, said he and other Palea members in the province did not join the work stoppage and they just ?slowed down? on their jobs on Tuesday.

    With reports from Jerry Esplanada and Jocelyn R. Uy in Manila; and Joey Gabieta and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas

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