By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – ‘Tis the peak season in the airline business, and workers of Philippine flag-carrier Philippine Air Lines (PAL) say they can feel it in their workload. ‘Tis also the season when any hint of work stoppage in the airline can rattle the management, especially since the more numerous and strike-tested ground crew union has filed another notice of strike first week of November.
The labor department had at the time just thrown away the said union’s petition against the Department of Labor and Employment’s earlier approval of PAL’s outsourcing plans. That notice of strike has not yet been scuttled by an assumption of jurisdiction order, although the recent decision of President Benigno S. Aquino III to “review” the PAL case has somewhat created the same effect.
Challenged to hold stronger mass actions … (Photo by Angelica G. de Lara / bulatlat.com)
Last week, Aquino announced that his office would review the outsourcing case of PAL. Afterward, Aquino’s executive secretary met with the officers of Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) for what turned out to be “more of an exploratory talk,” as PALEA president Gerry Rivera described it. The presidential review has “temporarily stopped the conciliation conferences between the union, PAL and DOLE, as all parties await the result of the president’s review,” Rivera told Bulatlat.com.
While under “review,” PAL’s spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline would observe the “status quo” and would not yet implement their DOLE-approved spin-off and outsourcing plans.
But for PAL workers, is there cause for hope that Aquino will reverse the approval of the Lucio Tan company’s planned outsourcing, mass termination and contractualization, which had been affirmed by two succeeding labor secretaries? Or is Aquino merely helping Tan to buy time, until the Christmas peak season — and the optimum time for the ground workers’ strike — is over?
In the same way that the Lopezes of the ABS-CBN are reportedly one of Aquino’s biggest presidential campaign supporters, so is Tan, who in the past has also had close relations with the president’s cousin and campaigner, Antonio “Boy” Cojuangco. Tan first bought into the flag carrier when it was being privatized — through Cojuangco, who reportedly served as Tan’s dummy for the initial transactions.
November 25 unity march vs contractualization, Ayala, Makati City. (Photos by Angelica G. de Lara / bulatlat.com)
So far, Aquino’s pronouncements have also always been about attracting investments and making the country more attractive for such investments. In past interviews with the media, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz had expounded on how labor and the workforce can be dealt with for the sake of attracting investments.
A day after the big Ayala “unity march against contractualization” in PAL and in other firms around the country, Baldoz explained in a DZRH interview that while the Labor Code affirms the workers’ security of tenure, there are “authorized causes for companies to reduce their workforce.” She explained that streamlining, for instance, is being resorted to so that a company can cut costs and with that, help to encourage more investments to pour into the country.
Echoing the Lucio Tan Group’s line that PAL is seeking to implement outsourcing “for survival,” Baldoz said there are instances where companies “wanting to maintain operations” can use the Labor Code’s “allowed processes” to keep them in business.
Baldoz has been criticized in recent past for ignoring reports that PAL actually continues to remain profitable despite all these pronouncements of losses — the airline has in fact successfully pre-paid up all its past loan-purchased aircraft and it has recently embarked on yet another fleet and route expansion programs.
The DZRH interviewer was pointedly asking Baldoz another question about the “prevalent labor-only-contracting in the country” and the threat of contractualization looming over PAL workers when, all of a sudden, he stopped and shifted to asking Baldoz about the country’s employment and unemployment rates. They never returned to the PAL contractualization topic.