Rights groups vow to support PAL workers’ strike

Published by rudy Date posted on April 1, 2011

A network of human rights advocates vowed on Friday to support a looming labor strike by Philippine Airlines union members, saying that Malacañang’s ruling allowing the PAL management to get subcontractors for its non-core businesses undermines workers’ rights.

“We are supporting the PAL Employees’ Association (PALEA) members’ planned labor strike as it is the only viable option left to them at this time,” said Professor Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan, spokesperson for the NGO-PO Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR).

Simbulan, however, did not elaborate what forms of support the network will extend to PALEA’s plan for work stoppage, which could erupt anytime as the union had tentatively set it for April 1.

Last March 25, Malacañang announced its ruling upholding PAL’s right to restructure its operations by having its Airport services, In-flight catering and Call Center reservations units subcontracted to other parties

The restructuring of these services could render 2,600 regular PAL workers jobless, PALEA claimed.

Palace’s decision has taken away all the impediments to PAL’s plan for the spin-off.

On March 26, PAL welcomed Malacañang’s ruling and asked PALEA members to “respect and abide by the decision for the sake of industrial peace and the welfare of the flying public.”

But the ESCR network said Malacañang’s nod on the spin-off plan disregards workers’ rights.

Simbulan said “we demand accountability from the Aquino administration to honor its human rights obligations to the Filipino workers by reversing its decision and stopping the contractualization of labor in PAL.”

For his part, ESCR-Asia, Inc. chairperson Minerva G. Gonzales pointed out that “in upholding PAL management’s plan to lay off some 2, 600 employees, the Office of the President forgets, nay betrays, the social justice framework of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Max de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), also a member of the ESC Network, said “prioritizing business over human rights, which translates to sacrificing workers’ job security for profit, is unacceptable.”

The ESC Network officers also reminded Aquino that the Philippines has signed and ratified in 1974 the United Nation’s International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which guarantees workers’ right to full and decent work, including security of tenure.

‘No conspiracy’

Malacañang last Monday defended its decision to uphold the spin-off plan, saying it is trying to balance “competing interest” behind the issue.

Belying PALEA’s accusation of conspiracy, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ricky Carandang said, “We understand that in trying to attempt that balance, not everybody will be happy with it, but there was absolutely no conspiracy here.”

Last March 25, the PAL management said it will continue to reach out to PALEA despite its threat to stage a strike.

But the management warned that employees who would take part in the strike might face forfeiture of their benefits including those ordered by the Office of the President.

“We understand where they are coming from, and it is a very painful decision for them. We want to resolve the issue soonest,” PAL spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna said in an interview on dwIZ radio last Saturday.

Earlier, PAL president Jaime Bautista assured affected workers of the following benefits:
* Separation pay equivalent to 1.25 month’s salary for every year of service;
* Gratuity of P100,000 per affected employee (a P50,000 increase per the latest Malacañang order);

* One-hundred percent (100%) commutation to cash of unused vacation leave and sick leave balances;

* One-year extension of the medical and hospitalization benefits; and

* Trip pass benefits depending on the number of years of service.
President Aquino formally assumed jurisdiction over the labor-management dispute last December 15, averting a potential strike by PALEA, which filed a notice of strike on November 5, 2010. — Jerbert Briola/LBG, GMA News

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