Over 300 PAL workers in Cebu, Davao to lose jobs

Subscribe Now August 18, 2011 at 07:33pm

At least 320 employees of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Cebu and Davao are set to lose their jobs after Malacañang denied anew the workers' union appeal to stop the flag-carrier's outsourcing program. Representatives from the PAL Employees Association (Palea) told Sun.Star on Thursday that of the 2,600 employees eyed for retrenchment, 250 are from Cebu while 70 are from Davao.

Malacanang's adverse decision will also affect 25 workers in Cagayan de Oro City, 20 in Zamboanga City, nine each in Dipolog and Cotabato cities, 15 in General Santos City, and 11 in Butuan City, Palea-Mindanao board member Eugene Cosare said.

Tex Bulambot, Palea Cebu-Visayas Station board member, expressed dismay over the Palace's move to side with their employer on the issue, calling it the "worst case of unfair labor practice."

"Palea is determined to fight this anti-labor policy of President Benigno Aquino III to the highest court of the land and if the Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional right to security of tenure, we will file an impeachment case against him for failing to protect our right," he said.

In a two-page resolution obtained by Sun.Star, the Office of the President denied the motion for reconsideration of Palea last August 11, paving the way for most union members to be contractual workers in third-party service providers soon.

"The points raised by petitioner in its motion for reconsideration are a mere rehash of those considered, discussed and ruled upon by the Secretary of Labor in her order dated 29 October 2010 and affirmed in our decision dated 25 March 2011," Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said.

Among others, Palea said in its appeal that the impending closure of the airline's in-flight catering, airport and reservations services is equivalent to union busting.

It also scored PAL for violating a provision of the collective bargaining agreement barring the outsourcing of services performed by regular workers.

But as of this posting time Thursday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said they are still checking the veracity of the decision.

“Usec (Abigail) Valte was calling the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) but she failed to get a response. Let me get a confirmation,” Lacierda told reporters.

Battle shifts to Court of Appeals

Meantime, Palea said it is already preparing to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeals.

"With the OP decision permitting PAL to retrench thousands of workers despite billions in profit, PNoy (President Benigno Aquino III) has unveiled his fire-all-you-can policy," Palea president Gerry Rivera said.

The Palace, on the other hand, declined to comment on the union's planned legal action as it waited for the official copy to be furnished by Ochoa’s office.

Under the Palace-formulated early retirement package, the workers are set to receive between P500,000 and over P1 million, depending on the length of service.

Non-monetary benefits such as free tickets, automatic one-year employment in the service provider, and medical insurance were also guaranteed.

For its part, PAL said it would invite leaders of the Palea for a dialogue to discuss the smooth and orderly implementation of the spin off program.

No specific date has yet been announced as to when the outsourcing program will be implemented.

Airline spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the PAL management also plans to hold town hall meetings in the affected departments to discuss the mechanics of the spin off.

Primers will also be distributed to guide workers on how to avail of their retirement benefits and gratuity pay which will be processed on a "first come, first serve" basis.

Contrary to past pronouncements by the union leaders, Villaluna said several workers of the affected units have already expressed interest to avail of the package.

The service providers, meanwhile, "await the smooth transition of operations," she said.

Sky Kitchen, owned by Cebuano businessman Manny Osmeña, will take over the catering department of PAL while Manny Pangilinan-led SPi Global Inc. will serve PAL's call center operations.

Skylogistics, also managed by Osmeña, will capture PAL’s ground and passenger handling.

To drum up more public support, the union has announced a protest action on the afternoon of August 22 to protest the Palace decision and highlight the campaign against contractualization.

The motorcade will start at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) office in Buendia corner Roxas Boulevard and then proceed to Ayala Avenue in Makati.


Simultaneous protests will also be held in Cebu and Davao.

"We will sympathize on what Manila would be doing," Cosare said.

PAL had said that the company's P15-billion losses in 2008 and 2009 necessitated the restructuring program, which includes cutting down on manpower costs.

On Wednesday, the Lucio Tan-led airline reported a net loss of $10.6 million for the first quarter (April to June) of its current fiscal year compared to a $31.6 million it raked in for the same period in 2010.

The flag carrier attributed the slide to modest revenue growth, eroded by significant increases in fuel prices and other factors like political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and natural calamities in Japan.

Source: sunstar.com.ph

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