Bishops support strike to protest PAL layoffs

Published by rudy Date posted on April 7, 2011

CATHOLIC bishops on Wednesday said they will support a strike at Philippine Airlines to protest a management plan to lay off 2,600 workers as part of its program to spin off its ground operations.

“As a Church, we should be aware of the situation of our workers and support them,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action.

“It’s clear in the teachings of the Church that labor has priority over capital.”

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association has been threatening to strike over the carrier’s plan to outsource its ground operations, saying that would result in its members’ layoff.

The airline says it needs to outsource its ground services to stay in business. The employees to be cut will be given generous separation benefits, and they will be rehired by the companies taking over those services.

At a press conference at the CBCP, Pabillo said he had met with the union’s officers to map out coordinated moves and mass action, including a big protest rally on May 1.

The bishops would support a strike by the union against the airline’s restructuring program because it was the workers’ only option.

Pabillo said the airline would be sending the wrong signal to workers if it went ahead with its outsourcing plan.

“It will not be a good precedent not only for PAL but also for other companies in the Philippines,” Pabillo said without elaborating.

The bishop added that the government should protect the rights of workers so they would not be forced to leave the country to find better jobs abroad.

President Benigno Aquino III approved the airline’s layoff plan in March provided all affected employees received a separation pay of P100,000.

The ground workers protested at Terminal 2 in Manila on Friday, but did not strike.

The airline on Tuesday assured its passengers it was ready for the worst, and that it had contingency plans to minimize flight disruptions in case its ground workers walked out.

Reacting to the bishop’s statements, PAL spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna said, “This is a democratic country and each sector is entitled to express its opinion on an issue.”

She said PAL would send “pertinent data” to the bishops so they could get a “holistic picture of management-labor issues” at the airline. –Vito Barcelo, Manila Standard Today

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