Palea suspends strike, bishop backs workers’ rights

Published by rudy Date posted on April 5, 2011

STILL hoping for the best, the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea) on Monday suspended indefinitely their planned strike, which was supposed to have started on April 2, or seven days after they filed their petition before the Department of Labor and Employment.

“We just suspended the strike. But anytime, we can mobilize our 3,500 members,” Palea President Gerry Rivera said.

He added that the management of Philippine Airlines (PAL) was pushing their group to the limit, the reason why they are elevating the case before the International Labor Organization to seek redress.

“They [PAL] are not talking to us. They are just dictating what they want,” Rivera said.

He was referring to a decision of PAL to retrench 2,600 ground employees under its job outsourcing plan.

“Even myself will be jobless after the retrenchment. I am one of those 2,600 employees,” said Rivera, also a supervisor at Terminal 2 baggage counter.

In its latest move, the Labor department ordered the Palea vs. PAL case referred to the mediation board.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that the mediation board now has jurisdiction over the case, which in effect prohibits Palea to hold a strike.

Rivera said that his group has exhausted all legal means available to resolve the impasse.

He accused both the Department of Labor and Employment and the Office of the President of siding with PAL management.

Saying that labor must be favored over capital, a Catholic bishop also on Monday said that he supports the planned labor strike by Palea.

“As a Church, we should be aware of the situation of our workers and support them. It’s clear in the teachings of the Church that labor has priority over capital,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said during an interview over Catholic-run Radyo Veritas.

Pabillo, also the chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, disagreed with the government’s ruling that allows the flag-carrier to push through with its job outsourcing plan.

He said that if PAL pushes through with labor contractualization and outsourcing, “it will not be a good precedence [for] other companies in the Philippines.”

The bishop called on the people to support Palea in its planned labor strike to ensure that the rights of the workers are protected.

He said that he believes that holding a strike is the only viable option left for the PAL employees at this time.

Pabilo said that the government should protect the rights of the workers, who “are not mere commodities that should be subjected to cheap labor.”  –Jaime Pilapil, Correspondent with report from Rommel C. Lontayao, M nila Times

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