Speaking before a low turnout of participation from AIT students, the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) president Gerry Rivera emphasized on Friday that their row with the legacy carrier has already developed into a broader fight against contractualization in the Philippines.
“Ang laban ng PALEA ay laban ng lahat,” said Rivera whose allies from the union occupied half of the Seminar Room.
Employed in PAL since 1988, he was guest speaker in the AITSC’s first Serious Talk Series.
“Hindi na lang ito tungkol sa issue ng PAL, ang laban namin ay laban din ng next generation which includes you as students.”
PAL has outsourced its call center reservation, airport services, and in-flight catering effective October 1 after a two-year battle with PALEA, resulting to the dismissal of 2,600 employees.
Violation of worker rights
Rivera said their situation reflects the current state of how workers are treated in the country. Their row with PAL allegedly stemmed from the company’s violation of the worker’s right to security of tenure, right to self-organization, and right to collective bargaining negotiations. See statement by Partido ng Manggagawa
“The PALEA is just a name because since June 1998, PAL already started not recognizing [PALEA].”
In 1998, the airline dismissed 5,000 employees due to the Asian Financial Crisis. Rivera said PAL asked for the suspension of collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PALEA for ten years as the company entered a corporate rehabilitation program. See Rentrenching workers, don’t repeat PAL mistake
According to BusinessDictionary.com, a CBA is a contract between the management and an employee organization defining the conditions of employment such as wages, holidays, and benefits and procedures in resolving disputes.
“You might be wondering why only PALEA was asked for the suspension of the CBA, until today I don’t know why.”
The union is one of the three employee organizations in PAL. One is for pilots, the other for flight attendants.
Furthermore, according to Rivera, PAL prematurely exited from the rehabilitation program in September 2007, but the suspension of CBA continued beyond the 10-year period in 2008. He noted that the union’s officers, while engaged in an internal conflict agreed to the extension of the CBA moratorium.
‘PAL is not losing money’
While the main argument in the spin-off issue is to save the airline from more losses by reorganizing corporate structure, Rivera cited a number of counterarguments against PAL’s move.
In an Inquirer.net article, PAL cited a P312 million loss in the two previous years from the global recession among other reasons such as fuel prices and competition with low-cost carriers which the company identified as rationale for the current restructuring.
However, PALEA insisted, “PAL’s audited FS for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2011 show [a $72.5 million or] P3 billion income, and that is after taxes.”
From June to April of the year, PAL accounted a net loss of $10.6 million effected by the Arab Spring, Japanese tsunami, and oil price hikes, according to another Inquirer.net article. See PAL welcomes DoLE ruling allowing spin-off
Since 2000, PAL has been outsourcing its maintenance and engineering from Lufthansa Technik Philippines. Despite this, Rivera claimed, 60% of Lufthansa Technik is still under Lucio Tan through the logistics company MacroAsia Corporation.
He further suspected, “We have proven this in our research that the service providers coming in now by virtue of the outsourcing program—the Sky Kitchen [and Sky] Logistics ay pag-aari din nila.”
He said 40% of the Sky Kitchen is owned by MacroAsia.
Sky Kitchen Philippines, Sky Logistics Philippines, and SPI Global Holdings were PAL’s target service providers for the catering, airport services, and call center, respectively. Salimbay is yet to confirm whether this was pursued. See PAL back to normal flight operations Thursday
In a SunStar.com.ph article dated September 8, the three service providers allegedly were not registered under the Department of Labor and Employment, violating Department Order 18 Series 2002. See Philippine airlines service providers illegal
The order compelled for the registration of contractors and subcontractors.
PALEA also noted the incapability of these providers and the competency of the union members.
It asserted in a statement, “The service providers do not have the necessary personnel complement to do the job that they [PAL] have contracted for. It is now December and PAL continues to operate at a very low operational level.”
Outsourcing as a global trend
Calling contractualization’s being a global trend a “farce”, Rivera said that a list given by the International Transport Workers Federation claims that a significant number of airlines in the Asia-Pacific are still provided by their own manpower.
He suspected that cabin crew would follow suit in the outsourcing scheme.
According to Salimbay’s source, the compensation package for the employees is above industry average. Rivera said that the actual rate ranges from half to a million.
But despite the sum, only one-fifth of the 2,600 chose to get their compensation, according to Rivera. PALEA would insist in their reinstatement even if this means spending Christmas in their protest camps.
“We would like our children na sana maranasan pa ang regular,” said Rivera.