Aquino’s Assumption of Jurisdiction Over PAL Dispute: A Christmas Gift to Workers or a Delaying Tactic?

“The real test of whether Aquino’s assumption of jurisdiction order is pro-worker or pro-Lucio Tan lies in his future decision on Tan’s contractualization through mass layoffs and outsourcing scheme,” said Joselito Ustarez, vice-chairman of KMU.


MANILA – Thousands of ground crew employees of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) “will have a merry Christmas since no retrenchment will happen this holiday season,” said Gerry Rivera, president of PAL Employees Association (PALEA), after President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino assumed jurisdiction last Dec 16 of PALEA’s pending strike. The assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) order, a power vested on the labor secretary and the country’s president, enjoined both parties (PAL and PALEA) to withhold their planned actions until Aquino comes up with an official resolution addressing the conflicting issues of the workers and PAL management.

Up for Aquino’s review is the contentious matter of PAL’s planned spinoff and outsourcing, which, when implemented, would result in the termination of nearly 3,000 regular employees and their transformation into lower-paid non-unionized contractual workers. PAL president Jaime Bautista has insisted that after the mass layoff, PAL would “outsource” the jobs of inflight catering, aircraft maintenance and ticketing services to three supposed third party service providers: SkyLogistics Philippines Inc., SkyKitchen Philippines Inc. and ePLDT Ventus.

But PALEA and the Anakpawis Partylist chapter in PAL have repeatedly belied such claims, saying PAL only plans to transfer its workers to the Lucio Tan Group’s dummy companies to slash their wages, bust their union and make the CBA suspension permanent. In fact, an exhaustive paper trail investigation of writer Raissa Robles has recently confirmed in detail that SkyLogistics and SkyKitchen are indeed dummy companies, if not outrightly under Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corporation.

Thus, Aquino’s review may likely find out that a big factor cited by PAL in its planned spin-off/outsourcing and DOLE’s approval of it appears to be without basis. For now though, the dispute has been a year-long exchange of saber-rattling between the management and the workers’ union. The recent AJ is already the second of such order issued for the same dispute this year alone.

PALEA was supposed to hold a strike anytime beginning this week after 86-percent of its members voted yes to holding a strike. PAL management, meanwhile, had previously said that this second strike threat is just a delaying tactic against their implementation of the spin-off program that had already been approved by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The said DOLE go-signal has become final and executory early last month, but with President Aquino’s AJ order, the PAL management is likewise enjoined to delay the implementation of the spin-off, and thus discontinue the processing and grant of the separation pay to affected workers, among others.

An Attack Postponed

“It is not yet sure if we will have a happy new year because the suspension of the DOLE ruling (favouring PAL’s spin-off and mass termination) is only temporary,” Gerry Rivera said in a statement.
Aquino has not yet wrapped up his “review” of the spin-off/outsourcing case in the flag-carrier. If the workers do not remain vigilant, the KMU said, Aquino’s AJ order may even prove to be a double-edged sword.

The AJ has somewhat smoothened PAL’s feathers, as president Jaime Bautista said that “While PAL’s spin-off program can wait, the order stopping the strike is the best Christmas gift the Palace can give to thousands of anxious PAL passengers with scheduled flights this holiday season.” The PAL management and the Aquino government have been striving not only to allay public fears of an impending strike but also to try to squelch it early on. The PAL management had even questioned the legality of PALEA’s holding a strike vote. The Aquino government ‘s labor department had threatened the workers against holding a strike while the DOTC had reportedly engaged in back-channel efforts to avert the PAL workers’ strike.

“We have doubts that Aquino is halting the mass layoff in PAL only to prevent the launching of a strike in the country’s flag carrier amid the Christmas season. We have every reason to think that, in assuming jurisdiction, he is not upholding the rights of PAL workers but the interest of PAL’s owner, business tycoon Lucio Tan, to continue to rake in huge profits during this Christmas season,” said the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in a statement.

“The real test of whether Aquino’s assumption of jurisdiction order is pro-worker or pro-Lucio Tan lies in his future decision on Tan’s contractualization through mass layoffs and outsourcing scheme,” said Joselito Ustarez, vice-chairman of KMU. If Aquino decides in favor of Tan’s outsourcing scheme, his assumption of jurisdiction will be exposed as “nothing but a deceptive move to thwart any strike in the Philippine Airlines and guarantee Tan’s huge profits during the Christmas season,” Ustarez explained. He urged PAL workers to continue to prepare for a strike over and beyond Aquino’s assumption of jurisdiction, as the workers appear to “not have a Messiah in Malacañang; all we have is our collective strength.” (

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