By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — As 2,600 long-time regular workers of Philippine Air Lines find themselves locked out of PAL and out of negotiations today in the outsourcing of the airline, progressive labor groups accused the union leadership of Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA)– Gerardo Rivera and Bong Palad in the main– of conniving with PAL management.
Not only were thousands of PAL workers left newly unemployed and insecure, some of them stand to be laid off without benefits and may even get slapped with various charges for having participated in what amounted to as an ill-timed, ill-prepared protest action orchestrated by PALEA leaders last Tuesday.
At least 300 PAL workers reported for work last Tuesday but conducted protest actions instead. Other active PAL members opposed also to outsourcing told bulatlat.com that they were not informed that such a protest would be conducted. Others said they were not really on strike, but they were forced not to work because their computers mysteriously failed, for some reason.
A cabin crew noted that on Sept 27, “the Palea people who man the check-in counters of PAL suddenly have no more access to the computers there. They have to input their access so they can work. Their ID’s were suddenly invalid. They didn’t have any intention of going on strike… security and cops came and they were told to get out of Naia 2… Palea people explained that they are there to work. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. They were forced out of the airport premises after that. Some Palea men were pushed and shoved out…”
That Tuesday protest action has now been branded and maligned as “wildcat strike” and used by PAL president Jaime Bautista in justifying PAL’s “determined” implementation this Oct 1 of outsourcing.
Actions speak louder
“PAL workers are in a better position to hold a strike today than they were last September 27, when they launched protest actions that paralyzed the flag carrier’s operations. The PAL management is guilty of illegal lockout (today), violating the status quo which should be in place pending the decision of the Court of Appeals on the labor dispute,” said Lito Ustarez, vice-chairman of KMU.
But “the fact that no strike was launched today in PAL, when workers are being barred from going to work, proves that the leaders of Palea have betrayed their members,” concluded Ustarez. The labor center pointed to the actions itself of the PALEA leaders, who, they said, are only mouthing pro-worker statements but in reality are betraying their struggle and interests.
There is currently a petition for certiorari filed by the leaders of the PAL Employees’ Association last August before the Court of Appeals,where Palea is asking the CA to set aside two decisions of the Office of the President upholding the contracting of key airline functions.
Pending the resolution of the case, a status quo order should be in place, prohibiting the union from launching protest actions and the management from retrenching workers and implementing its outsourcing scheme.
It is this prohibition or this status quo that the PALEA leadership, particularly Gerry Rivera and Bong Palad, had unfortunately broken in their Sept 27 ‘wildcat strike.’ The said protest rendered its participants vulnerable to punitive retaliation by PAL management, aside from earning the union some adverse public reaction.
“To make matters worse, the Palea leadership decided to hold the protest without prior notice to the public and amid a raging typhoon, thereby alienating the public whose support is crucial to the fight’s success,” Ustarez said.
“We have every reason to believe that the Palea leadership launched the Sept. 27 protest action to undermine a possible Oct. 1 strike, which some PAL workers have been agitating for,” Ustarez concluded.
Given the previous record of Gerardo Rivera and Bong Palad, when they nixed the overwhelming strike vote last December by postponing the union strike in deference to President Aquino’s “review” of the outsourcing issue, not to mention Rivera’s being a big part of the PALEA leadership that approved the CBA suspension and outsourcing in PAL more than a decade ago,
KMU’s Ustarez said, they “cannot help but think that Rivera and Palad are in cahoots with Lucio Tan and the Aquino government in attacking the job security and union rights of PAL workers.”
Ustarez suspects that it is very likely that these so-called labor leaders have become wealthier by betraying the PAL workers.
With the layoff of thousands of long-time workers, the continuation of CBA suspension and as workers feared, the bigger implementation of contractualization, the PAL management itself estimated they will save some P600-million ($13.95 million) every year.