PAL union workers vow to bring outsourcing plan to SC

Published by rudy Date posted on March 31, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) vowed to challenge before the Supreme Court Malacanang’s decision to uphold the outsourcing plan at the national flag carrier.

PALEA president Gerry Rivera made the statement on Wednesday as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) tried to patch up for the second straight day the labor row between union and management that could lead to a strike as early as Saturday.

“The ruling of the Office of the President (OP) is not yet final and executory. We can still appeal that before the courts. I think the last arbiter would be the Supreme Court,” Rivera said in an interview.

He said even PAL management—before Malacanang released its decision allowing the outsourcing of 2,600 jobs—said that it would go to the courts if the Palace ruled against them.

“We just received the OP decision this Monday and we are now studying it to prepare an appeal before the court of Appeals or the High Court,” Rivera said.

The union leader also insisted that management has been refusing to negotiate for a new collecting bargaining agreement (CBA) with PALEA—the reason why the union has threatened to go on strike as early as this weekend.

Rivera explained that while PAL submitted its CBA counter-proposal on Monday, it included the ‘precondition” that the CBA should cover only those who would not be affected by its outsourcing plan.

“So, who will be left? I myself will be affected by the outsourcing plan. So, they are still refusing to negotiate. Our position is the CBA negotiation should be treated independently from other issues,” Rivera said.

“The CBA is a right of workers and the obligation of management so there should be no preconditions except for those that we agreed to,” he said.

“But they’re imposing this precondition…What if it takes the courts five years to rule on the (outsourcing) issue, does that mean we won’t have a CBA for the next five years? That is unacceptable,” he added.

Rivera said the DoLE officials suggested during the first conciliation hearing on Tuesday at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) that this precondition of PAL be removed but the issue remained unresolved.

Another mediation hearing was held Wednesday afternoon at the NCMB but Rivera said PAL president Jaime Bautista was not present because he left for New Delhi on Tuesday night with PAL owner Lucio Tan.

“With the (PAL) president absent, I don’t know if those present on their side have the authority to negotiate and seal agreements,” said Rivera, who also did not attend Wednesday’s hearing and sent only PALEA representatives and lawyers to the hearing.

PALEA last week held a strike vote and majority of its members agreed to go on strike due to the “refusal” of PAL management to negotiate a new CBA.

Rivera said that they submitted the results to DoLE last Friday, which meant that upon the end of the seven-day “strike ban” this Friday, PALEA would legally be able to on strike.

However, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz could assume jurisdiction over the labor case since a labor strike at the flag carrier could affect national interests. Such a move would ban any strike from breaking out at PAL.

“We’ll cross the bridge when we get there,” Rivera said, when asked what PALEA would do if Baldoz made such a move. –Philip Tubeza, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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