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Saturday, September 25, 2010

PALEA Celebrates 64th Anniversary Amid Turbulent Times at PAL

This year, both PALEA and FASAP are seeking to finally ink a new, improved CBA with PAL. But PALEA has so far been met with mass termination notices on account of PAL’s planned spin-off, while FASAP has been forced to file a notice of strike as PAL firmly refuses to put the discriminatory retirement provision affecting flight attendants on the negotiating table in this CBA.

The union of Philippine Air Lines ground workers, “(un)arguably the oldest union existing today,” celebrated its 64th anniversary last Tuesday September 21 with a prayer rally at Nichols and a mass at Our Lady of Airways Parish in Mia Road, ParaƱaque City. The prayer rally and mass were attended by over a hundred employees, including some PAL executives such as PAL president Jaime Bautista. During the homily, the officiating priest noted that PALEA’s anniversary coincides with the feast of St. Matthew the tax collector and the commemoration of Martial Law. The priest enjoined the gathered unionists and PAL executives to “be content with what you have” and “leave the disputes to God.”

Since April this year the 3,732-strong PALEA has been restive over the PAL management’s plans to terminate most of their members under a planned spin-off that had been approved by the labor department last June. PALEA is questioning the management’s moves, saying the spin-off is just the PAL management’s way of turning employees into lower paid contractual employees without benefits and without protection of a union. The union and management are currently holding conciliation meetings being mediated by the labor department.

In his brief speech during the mass, PALEA president Gerardo Rivera thanked the union members and the PAL management, calling the latter as a “partner”, and expressed hopes that PALEA would continue working with them as a “partner.”

History of Ups and Downs

PALEA was founded in September 21, 1946, at a time when PAL was still a public-owned airline. Its establishment was spearheaded by airplane mechanics. Ironically, airplane mechanics are now without a union after their department was transferred or spun-off to Lucio Tan Group’s MacroAsia Corporation in 2000.

Through the years PALEA has grown big and small, said Rivera in Filipino. He added that they have been a “good partner of PAL” and that even though sometimes they might look like enemies they have also walked “arm-to-arm” often.

PALEA has also had its share of union presidents who had been reportedly paid off by PAL to agree to management decisions concerning its workers. There was Alex Barrientos, PALEA president who allegedly received P50 million ($1.136 million) as bribe from Lucio Tan to make the union vote in favor of the 10-year CBA suspension in 1999. This suspension was extended by another year by the next PALEA president, Edgardo Oredina. Barrientos and Oredina both became members of PAL’s board of directors, receiving their pay in dollars, according to the company’s financial reports.

Rivera, a nominee of losing party-list contender Partido ng Manggagawa, also announced the union’s “reactivation” of its affiliation with the government-backed labor center Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in their anniversary mass. In an interview with Bulatlat, he said there is a need for different labor organizations to unite and fight the drive for contractualization.

Last month, PALEA officers and members of Anakpawis chapter in PAL trooped to the meeting called by Anakpawis Partylist Representative Rafael Mariano. The consultation turned into a preliminary meeting of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, as many of its member legislators attended and vowed to speed up the committee’s formation so they could immediately look into the labor complaints lodged against Lucio Tan’s business practices.

Asked if his attendance at the PALEA anniversary mass indicates that PAL would no longer terminate its workers and “spin off” the ground workers’ departments, PAL president Jaime Bautista replied that the matter is already being discussed at the Department of Labor and Employment. He said he hopes to continue working with PALEA, the “recognized union” of ground employees.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Woes

Prior to the ending of the 10-year CBA suspension with PALEA and the increasing restiveness as well of the union of flight attendants – FASAP’s 2005-2010 CBA is still under negotiation up to now- the Philippine Air Lines had been steadily raking in profits. It has managed to come out of rehab earlier than scheduled, and started another re-fleeting program that has also begun to eat up into PAL’s profits. These supposed losses now formed part of PAL’s standard excuses for stonewalling the demands of flight attendants and ground employees.

This year, both PALEA and FASAP are seeking to finally ink a new, improved CBA with PAL. But PALEA has so far been met with mass termination notices on account of PAL’s planned spin-off, while FASAP has been forced to file a notice of strike as PAL firmly refuses to put the discriminatory retirement provision affecting flight attendants on the negotiating table in this CBA.

“We have been urging the removal of that discriminatory provision since two CBA’s ago,” said FASAP president Robert Anduiza last month. FASAP explained that “In the past, the union and its members are practically held hostage by PAL management prolonging the CBA negotiations and delaying any improvements in financial benefits.”

Times have changed, however, FASAP said. Their retirement issue has “ripened into its top priority and most important cause for majority of its members.” There is less than two weeks now before the mandated pre-strike cooling-off period lapses for FASAP, but so far, all they have agreed with the PAL management is their rice benefit.

As for ground employees, its union said they would be submitting their CBA proposal before the end of September. Last week, PALEA submitted to the labor secretary its comments to documents obtained from PAL such as the March 31, 2010 financial statement and outsourcing agreements with Sky Kitchen Philippines Inc and ePLDT Ventus, Inc. PALEA argued that these documents prove the financial situation of PAL “does not warrant the mass retrenchment.”

The union argued as well that “it is not true” that the Lucio Tan Group has nothing to do with the prospective third-party providers. Rivera said that in one of their conciliation meetings, PAL management admitted that they partly own the Sky company, and the new service providers, through Macro Asia.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

Posted via email from Aviation Professionals dot Org

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