PAL labor turbulence continues; strike looms

August 18, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—After the griping pilots come the strike-bound flight attendants and the rest of the airline’s workforce.

Attempts to fly through a turbulence of labor woes at Philippine Airlines (PAL), the country’s flag carrier, failed Tuesday as government-mediated talks between management and the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap) collapsed.

Robert Anduiza, Fasap president, said the union was taking the “final option” of going on strike after PAL refused to change its “unfair” policies on mandatory retirement age and on maternity and pregnancy leaves. Fasap has 1,600 members.

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (Palea) said it was seriously considering holding a joint strike with Fasap and the Association of Airline Pilots in the Philippines (Alpap) to bolster the group’s stand in its own dispute with the company over the outsourcing of services.

Palea boasts of 3,700 members, while Alpap has 400.

Early this month, several PAL pilots suddenly resigned over low salaries, forcing the airline to delay or cancel some of its domestic flights. Hundreds of passengers were left stranded at airports.

Gender discrimination

Fasap is asking PAL officials to reconsider its policy of forcing female workers hired after 2000 to retire when they reach the age of 40 while those who began working for PAL after 1996 are forced to retire at the age of 45.

Fasap denounced as “gender discrimination” the airline’s policy that bars a pregnant flight attendant from receiving any salary or allowance, as well as travel benefits, while she is on leave.

Fasap withdrew from the talks held at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) at around noon Tuesday.

Anduiza said he and his officers would later hold an “emergency meeting” to decide when they would file the notice of strike.

“We no longer see any point in continuing with it. After more than 10 meetings, PAL hasn’t budged on our requests,” Anduiza said.

Negotiations have dragged since their last collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired in 2007, he said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, PAL officials reiterated their offer of an P80-million package to settle its CBA with the union for 2005-2010 and that the retirement age and other issues be discussed in the next bargaining for 2010-2015.

After Fasap manifested that it was pulling out from the talks, the labor mediator declared that the preventive mediation case between PAL and Fasap was deemed withdrawn.

“So, we are pushing through with the option of going on strike. It’s our final option,” Anduiza said.

A question of faith

The company’s “hardline” stance on the mandatory retirement age indicates “bad faith,” Anduiza said, noting that “it has previously manifested in writing its erstwhile willingness to negotiate changes.”

He said the management did not even “offer reasons” as to why these “primordial issues should not be immediately addressed.” Even PAL president Jaime Bautista “did not show up (at Tuesday’s) very crucial meeting, so there’s no use.”

But the union president said that “Fasap would be willing to resume negotiations with the PAL management anytime if (the negotiations) would be conducted in good faith and in a reasonable and fair manner.”

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