PALEA Statement in Congressional Inquiry
Opening Statement of Mr. GERARDO F. RIVERA
President of the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA)
Meeting of the Committee on Labor and Employment
House of Representatives
May 19, 2011
Good morning, Honorable Chairman and members of the Committee. Magandang umaga po sa lahat.
I spoke before this Committee in December, last year, a day after the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) conducted a historic strike vote where the union members overwhelmingly approved the conduct of a strike based on the unfair labor practices committed by the management of PAL. Many developments have happened since then. But the dispute is far from being settled. In fact, since December 2010, the situation has worsened. Allow me, Mr. Chair, to give a brief summary of the events.
- After the conduct of the strike vote last December, the Office of the President intervened and assumed jurisdiction over the dispute.
- On January 27, 2011, while the case was awaiting resolution of the Office of the President, PAL President Jaime J. Bautista informed PALEA President Gerardo F. Rivera that PAL was ready to start the CBA negotiations and asked PALEA to submit the names of the members of the Union negotiation panel. We must note that PALEA submitted its proposed CBA to management as early as October 8, 2010.
- After PALEA had submitted the names of the members of its negotiation panel to PAL Management, PAL suddenly changed its position. Through a letter from President JJ Bautista, PAL asserted that it would not negotiate with the union until the resolution of the case on the mass termination, which was pending with the Office of the President. PAL was conveniently using the case before the Office of the President as an excuse to defeat PALEA’s right to collective bargaining.
- Because of PAL’s position, PALEA filed a Notice of Strike on the ground of “Refusal to Bargain” and subsequently conducted a strike vote where an overwhelming 95% of the members approved the conduct of the strike. On March 25, 2011, the union submitted the strike vote results to the DOLE, starting the 7-day strike ban period, the final procedural requirement for a strike. It was on the same day that the O.P. released the decision affirming Secretary Baldoz’s Order.
- The O.P. Decision of March 25, 2011affirmed the October 29, 2010 Decision of Labor Secretary Baldoz, with a modification – increasing the additional gratuity to the employees who will be dismissed from Fifty Thousand (P50,000), as ordered by Secretary Baldoz, to One Hundred Thousand (P100,000). PALEA filed a Motion for Reconsideration.
- After the submission of the strike vote results and the release of the O.P. Decision, PAL submitted its CBA “counter-proposal” but clarifies that it shall cover only those employees who will be left behind after the mass termination. This manifests PAL’s continuing stubborn refusal to bargain.
- On April 1, 2011, the last day of the 7-day strike ban, and as PALEA was preparing for the conduct of a strike, the DOLE Secretary issued an Order certifying the dispute to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for compulsory arbitration. The Order prohibits PALEA from conducting the planned strike.
- A couple of days ago, we just had our latest conference before the NLRC. The parties have submitted their respective position papers, and have been directed to submit their respective replies.
- We are still waiting for the decision of the O.P. on our Motion for Reconsideration.
Mr. Chairman, the case of PALEA highlights the sad plight of Filipino workers. We are aware of the serious difficulties of our brothers and sisters who are working as migrants abroad. But there, in their country of employment, they have a foreign government. They are far from the protection of the Philippine government. Here, we are in our home country, supposedly under the protection of our government. And yet, we suffer from numerous rights violations.
Mr. Chairman, at the heart of the dispute that led us to where we are now are fundamental rights of workers. Right to security of tenure, right to self-organization, right to collective bargaining.
Many of the PALEA members have faithfully served PAL and the general public for several decades. Now, we will be terminated. More than 2,600 employees in all. So we fight for our jobs. We fight for our right to security of tenure.
In 1998, we were told to sacrifice. For the sake of the company’s survival, we were told to give up our collective bargaining rights, temporarily. But the temporary moratorium in collective bargaining was quite long, TEN YEARS. It was then extended for another year. So, for more than a decade, we have not exercised our right to collective bargaining. Now, after all these years, PAL management tells us that we will be terminated from employment and that we will be transferred to service providers with no certainty as to employment status and conditions. Now, after the end of the CBA moratorium, and after we have been misled by PAL management into believing that it was sincere in negotiating a new CBA after more than a decade of moratorium, we would be told that no collective bargaining would happen, or that any collective bargaining would only cover the employees who will be retained after the mass termination.
It is evident that PAL has no intention to negotiate. What PAL wants is MASS TERMINATION first before CBA NEGOTIATION. So we fight for our CBA, we fight for our right to collective bargaining.
Despite the excellent financial condition of the company – US$ 75.0 Million or PHP 3 Billion, for nine months – PAL refuses to share the benefits of the company’s operations to its workers, through a CBA. After making its workers sacrifice their collective bargaining rights for more than a decade, PAL now rewards them with termination and refusal to bargain.
Mr. Chairman, I have said this last December, and I will say it again today.
Our jobs are being taken away from us, unjustly, illegally, primarily by PAL, but with a little help from the Department of Labor and Employment, and now, with the concurrence of the Office of the President.
When workers are denied security of tenure, they are deprived of other rights, especially the right to self organization and collective bargaining. In the case of PALEA, the termination of more than 2,600 employees will mean the termination of about 80% of the union membership. The contracting out is not just a device to avoid security of tenure, but to avoid the union, and to avoid the CBA.
There are pending bills that seek to strengthen security of tenure and other rights of workers in the private sector. There are resolutions that seek to investigate more deeply the status of PAL as a flag carrier. We appreciate all these efforts of the House of Representatives, and especially of this Committee. Our country’s workers are in dire need of protection.
PALEA’s case is a test case. It is a test case for unionism in the Philippines. It is a test case for employers, it is a test case for the government. If PALEA, one of the country’s oldest and biggest unions, with a collective bargaining agreement that prohibits PAL management from contracting out jobs, is now threatened with contractualization that is done in clear violation of our laws and our CBA, then what will happen to the other unions, and to the other workers who are not unionized? Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, PALEA’s case is a test case for all of us.
ANG LABAN NG PALEA AY LABAN NG LAHAT!