By October 1, regular PAL workers are under threat of being locked out of PAL, as the Lucio Tan Group of companies would start its outsourcing plan in earnest.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — While typhoon Pedring was ravaging the Philippines last Tuesday, a combined force of the Philippine National Police, Manila International Airport Authority and Philippine Air Lines security guards unleashed their strength on the protesting workers of PAL, as they dispersed and bodily dragged off the airline premises hundreds of these PAL workers.
In the nearby OLAP (Our Lady of Airways Parish) chapel where some workers and supporters gathered in the afternoon, the police also reportedly barricaded its premises and threatened the workers congregating inside, prompting the parish priest to come out and remind the police that “it is the workers’ right to conduct rallies and express themselves, and the police have no right to interfere inside the church.”
In Cebu, members of the now 65-year-old Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) also held a picket last Tuesday.
As of this report, PALEA members are still conducting various kinds of protests in the vicinity of the airport. Meanwhile, the management of PAL and President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino who arrived from Japan last night were threatening protesters with legal cases for having conducted a mass action last Tuesday. The said protest was blamed by PAL management for the cancellation of domestic and international flights at the height of typhoon Pedring.
But some flights remained cancelled on Wednesday even if the protesters had been bodily hauled off the airline premises by the police. Sources from plane cabin crews noted that the cancellations and the confusion that resulted in passengers being told to shuttle from one place to another were caused by still untrained new workers brought in by Lucio Tan Group’s MacroAsia.
Last Tuesday’s protest and the ongoing pockets of protests this week erupted from a series of commotions in the airport involving PAL regular workers refusing to give up their jobs or work with “non-PAL workers” brought in by Tan’s Macro Asia. Unionists’ postings in their Facebook also revealed that tensions are rising in the airport as employees continue to defy PAL’s outsourcing plan while management gears to lock the workers out by the end of this month.
It appears that Tan’s MacroAsia is shaping up as the third-party service provider who would take over the soon-to-be outsourced departments of PAL.
Implementation of questionable outsourcing plan
Since two years ago, members of PALEA had expressed hopes that their infamous 10-year CBA moratorium was finally over and that they could start negotiating a new CBA. They said all indications pointed to PAL having successfully bounced back from its crisis. But as it turned out, most PALEA members found themselves threatened instead.
Members told bulatlat.com that instead of a thank you for their decade-long sacrifice, the PAL management is seeking to retrench them (at least 2,600 workers of the 3,700-plus union) via a so-called outsourcing scheme.
The workers condemned the scheme as just a contractualization and union-busting plan in disguise. The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said it is geared only for Lucio Tan’s increased “profiteering,” and not because of business exigencies as “incurring losses.” But the labor department and then the office of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III still ignored these and approved the Lucio Tan Group’s outsourcing plan.
“We urge PAL workers to carry on with their protests in the coming days, after typhoon Pedring has passed, to maximize the impact of their protests. We support them for finally taking action, for they are correct in repeatedly voicing out their willingness to go on strike. We salute them for carrying on despite their leadership’s efforts to sabotage their collective action,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.
The top leaders of PALEA themselves have been seen as contributing to PAL management’s efforts to extend its 10-year CBA suspension and outsourcing plan. They have reportedly refused to start bargaining for another CBA with the management, despite the clamor of its members. And the top union leaders have also stuck to pursuing legal cases against outsourcing when their strike-tested union members have been urging them to call for stronger mass actions.
The union leadership had for example brought the outsourcing plan for ‘review’ of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, even if its union president Gerardo Rivera told bulatlat.com late last year that he was really not that optimistic about Aquino’s likely decision.
The moves of PALEA’s top leaders had tied the hands of the union from holding stronger mass actions, just as much as its hands had been tied when the labor department issued an assumption of jurisdiction order against its notice of strike last December. The union has let slip a golden opportunity for holding a strike last December, said its more progressive members.
When the labor department and later the office of President Aquino both came out with decisions “siding with the PAL management” approving outsourcing, PALEA’s leaders condemned it, but again, they decided to just file a legal case against it in the Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the PAL management has been steadily implementing its outsourcing plans, said some workers of PAL. Since last year, the PAL management has been reportedly negotiating individually with some of the affected workers, offering them separation pay and a chance to be rehired by the service providers that would replace their soon-to-be-outsourced departments.
This month, the implementation of outsourcing in PAL has come to a point that the still untrained lower-paid workers being brought in by Macro Asia into PAL operations were reportedly either not getting the full cooperation of the more experienced regular workers, or they were being asked to leave the work area by PAL employees. These have been causing commotions in the airport.
“They are not PAL employees, why are they in some restricted areas in the airport?” some inflight catering employees reportedly asked.
The PAL workers’ fight is “a fight of the Filipino workers and people,” said the KMU. “The implementation of the contractualization scheme in PAL signals the further contractualization of workforces in the country. We should all oppose PAL’s massive layoff and contractualization scheme,” said Labog. The PAL management appears to be banking on the desperation of some PAL workers to maintain a job and be rehired, even if experiences had showed them that like in the outsourced maintenance and engineering department of PAL, once the inexperienced newly-hired by Macro Asia learned the ropes, the old workers could soon be laid off too, sources told bulatlat.com.
The Anakpawis chapter in PAL said they are set to hold indignation rallies this week in the airport in support of their co-workers who are being divided and attacked by the combined forces and “collusion” of the PAL management and labor department, Manila International Airport Authority and the PNP.
“We call on the public to support the workers of PAL,” Labog of KMU said. He explained that PAL workers are “fighting powerful forces in society, such as the likes of big capitalist Lucio Tan, the pro-capitalist Aquino government and the pro-capitalist leadership of their union.” Labog added that “It is only through the PAL workers’ collective action and the public’s active support that the workers will be able to defend their jobs.”