Aquino okays PAL retrenchment; union pushes strike by early April

Published by rudy Date posted on March 26, 2011

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has affirmed the Labor Department’s ruling allowing Philippine Airlines to lay off 2,600 employees as part of a program to spin off its ground service operations.

But Malacañang doubled the gratuity to be received by the members of the PAL Employees Association who will be laid off, including those involved in in-flight catering, airport services and call center reservation operations, to P100,000 from P50,000.

“The Oct. 29 ruling of the Labor Department is hereby affirmed with modification,” said the order signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

He sent copies of the order to the airline management, the ground workers’ union, and the Labor Department Friday afternoon.

PAL Employees Association president Gerry Rivera said the union had expected Malacañang’s ruling, and that they were prepared to bring the matter to the Court of Appeals.

“We will push through with our strike,” he said.

“We have already submitted the result of the vote strike to the Department of Labor and Employment. We expect to conduct our nationwide strike in the first week of April.”

Although they didn’t have a copy of the decision yet, Rivera said, the fight for the workers’ rights would continue.

“We are set to hold a work stoppage at Philippine Airlines as 95 percent [of the union members] voted yes in the strike poll. There is no stopping us now,” Rivera said.

The union has threatened to strike over management’s refusal to hold new collective bargaining negotiations, which have been suspended for the last 13 years.

“[The union] asks for the support of our fellow Filipinos and brothers and sisters in the labor movement,” Rivera said.

“The CBA moratorium is a man-made tsunami that has ravaged our working conditions, and the planned outsourcing is another disaster awaiting PAL workers. Lucio Tan is becoming richer from [the] CBA moratorium and contractualization.”

In the Oct. 29 ruling, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz approved the mass layoff provided the employees received a gratuity of P50,000 and a separation pay of 125 percent.

The Palace had earlier ordered the flag carrier to submit its latest quarterly financial statement to the union to determine whether the mass termination was justified.

The union noted that, based on the airline’s financial statement, the company’s income for the October-December quarter in 2010 was $15.1 million. That was “a significant turnaround from the same quarter total comprehensive loss of the previous fiscal year of $22.9 million.”

On Friday, management officials stayed away from a scheduled conciliation meeting with the union at the Labor Department. Only the airline’s lawyers attended the meeting called by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board in a bid to settle the labor dispute. –Joyce Pangco Pañares with Vito Barcelo, Manila Standard Today

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