Palace won’t dip hands into PALEA strike

Published by rudy Date posted on April 3, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) could no longer go on strike as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had ruled the union’s dispute with management is subject to compulsory mediation, Malacañang asserted yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte added there was no need for Malacañang to dip its hands into the issue at this time.

“They can’t go on strike while the National Conciliation and Mediation Board is hearing their case,” Valte pointed out.

She said DOLE had issued certification order on the compulsory arbitration or mediation, which PALEA was expected to follow.

PALEA, on the other hand, declared they would push through its planned “paralyzing strike” against Philippine Airlines (PAL).

“We are ready to defy the order of DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz any time we deem it necessary to go on strike in order to prevent layoff and contractualization at PAL,” said PALEA president Gerry Rivera.

He said the compulsory arbitration order issued by Baldoz “is a bad April fool’s prank.”

“The (compulsory arbitration) order has not stopped a strike at PAL, it has merely postponed it to a date that PAL and the government cannot now know in advance,” Rivera said.

Rivera refused to elaborate on how and when PALEA intends to carry out the strike.

PALEA was contesting Malacañang’s decision allowing PAL to outsource some of its services that would lead to the termination of more than 2,000 workers.

Baldoz issued the order banning the strike in pointing out that there was no deadlock in the talks on collective bargaining agreement yet.

Asked by The STAR about PALEA’s planned defiance of the order, Baldoz just shrugged it off and said, “It’s okay. That’s their right.” 

Baldoz though expressed confidence that the strike still not push through. “I don’t think they will defy,” she said.

Ready for the worst scenario

PAL, on the other hand, assured its passengers that the national flag carrier is ready for a “worst scenario” of an actual work stoppage.

In a statement, PAL said it is ready to implement contingency measures to minimize flight disruptions and avoid passenger inconvenience in case the strike pushes through.

“Many PAL administrative employees, and even union members themselves, believe that a strike will not do the company any good. As such, they are ready to man posts to be vacated by protesting workers,” PAL president and COO Jaime Bautista said.

“We apologize to our passengers for whatever anxiety and inconvenience threats of work stoppage have spawned. Rest assured we are doing everything we can to ensure that your flights will proceed as scheduled,” he added.

Bautista said the planned strike has no legal basis.

Bautista denied allegations that PAL management had refused to convene negotiations for a CBA with PALEA.

He added PALEA’s claim of no justifiable reasons for the spin-off of three units — Airport Services, In-flight Catering and Call Center Reservations   — had no legal basis.

Bautista said PAL submitted its counter proposal to the CBA last March 28 before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB).

“This is the best proof that PAL is willing to negotiate with its union. Meanwhile, the planned spin-off, which was recently upheld by the Office of the President, is not the subject of any notice of strike as this has just been recently resolved by Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa,” he added.

Bautista said the DOLE thrice upheld PAL’s spin-off plan as legal and valid.

He said that last March 25, Malacañang upheld PAL’s right to spin off its three units to third party service providers.

Last ditch efforts

The planned mass action stemmed from the failure of PALEA and PAL management to reach an agreement concerning its collective bargaining agreement during a series of conciliation talks before DOLE’s National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

PALEA was to start its nationwide strike shortly after midnight yesterday when the strike ban prescribed by law ended.

But Friday night, Baldoz intervened and certified the dispute to the DOLE’s National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) “on the ground of national interest particularly the riding public.”

In her order, Baldoz noted, “earnest efforts to help the parties find a mutually acceptable settlement to the dispute have not gained positive results because of the parties’ intransigence.”

Citing national interest, Baldoz maintained a strike at the flag carrier during critical times cannot be tolerated “as we are now hampered by the debilitating effects of the global crisis spawned by man-made and natural calamities.” Because of the circumstances surrounding the labor dispute, Baldoz said DOLE has decided to intervene “motu propio” (on its own initiative) to certify the case to the NLRC for “immediate compulsory arbitration.”

Rivera said that allowing the NLRC to decide on the labor dispute resulted in stopping them from holding the strike while the case is pending. He said Baldoz’s order virtually sided with PAL.

Rivera claimed President Aquino has “not only legalized the actions of (PAL owner) Lucio Tan but also illegalized the action PALEA through Baldoz’s order.

“PALEA will resist being a victim of P-Noy’s (Aquino’s) anti-labor policy… the right to strike is a constitutionally protected freedom by workers to defend themselves against the awesome powers of capital,” Rivera said.

Rivera revealed PALEA is planning to elevate the case to the International Labor Organization, citing the “govern-ment’s suppression of the conventions on the right to self-organization and collective bargaining.”

“We have directed our members and supporters to be on standby. We will push through with our planned strike. We’ve been pushed too much to the wall already,” Rivera added.

Valte added the government could not be accused of being anti-labor because the DOLE made a ruling in December favoring the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines. –-Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star)
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