AFTER 18 long years, the legality of a strike by 24 pilots of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in 1998 was resolved by the Supreme Court.
The high court ruled that, except for one lady pilot, Gladys Jadie, the rest of the strikers were validly dismissed from the company for failure to comply with the return-to-work order issued by the Department of Labor.
Since Jadie was, at the time of the strike, nine months pregnant and on maternity leave she cannot be considered to have defied the order.
Considering that her reinstatement is no longer possible because the position of captain of the airplane she used to fly has ceased to exist, PAL was ordered instead to pay her back wages and Christmas bonuses from 1998 and a separation pay equivalent to one month’s salary for every year of service.
It’s a puzzler though that, considering PAL’s extensive experience in handling work stoppages by its pilots, it dismissed Jadie in spite of her being on approved maternity leave.
Did PAL’s human relations staff and lawyers fail to inform management that she cannot return to work because she was on permitted leave? And even if she was not on leave, her delicate condition (plus doctors’ orders) justified her not reporting for flight duty.
Or did management think she can be lumped together with the male pilots and nobody would notice that her situation is different from the rest of her colleagues? Or did PAL just didn’t give a damn?
The instant case brings to the fore, once more, the pestering issue in our country of discrimination against women on account of their sex or gender.
If laws and political environment were used as criteria, the Philippines can be considered the most gender-free country in the world in terms of treatment of women in government and the workplace.
We have laws that prohibit employers, under pain of monetary and penal sanctions, from discriminating against women on hiring, wages, promotion and other employment benefits.
The country has had two lady presidents and, if fate would have it, the third may come after the May elections. (Hopefully, the more mentally capacitated.)
Congress has its fair share of female lawmakers, and the Supreme Court and several key government offices are headed by women. It’s the same situation in the executive suites of many of the country’s top businesses.
In spite of the strides in gender balance, however, it remains a struggle for Filipino women to be treated on an equal plain with their male counterparts in the workplace, unless they work in businesses that are owned or managed by women. In the latter case, the tables are sometimes turned on the men.
Often, women have to work doubly hard to show they’re half as good as the men. And even if they have proven their worth, they have to continually prove their achievement is not a fluke or flash in the pan, something their male colleagues are not obliged or expected to do.
Unlike in the past when bias against women was openly displayed and considered an acceptable norm of conduct, today it’s done in a subtle manner or made to appear as unintentional or done in good faith.
In some business establishments, certain so-called feminine qualities, e.g., soft-heartedness and physical fragility, often influence management into giving preferential treatment to the male staff in work assignments.
Since the “more challenging” jobs are handled by the men, it follows they receive higher pay or additional privileges and their path to promotion becomes easier.
The discrimination ante goes higher if the female employee is married or, if unmarried or a single parent, has children to take care of.
The apprehension that maternity leaves or sudden time-offs to attend to urgent family matters may adversely affect her work performance is often used as an excuse (without being open about it) to justify the choice of male employees to hold positions of responsibility or participate in professional advancement courses or industry conferences.
As if the discrimination is not enough, sometimes female employees have to suffer sexual harassment in the work premises, or deal with male employees with low self-esteem who think bullying their fellow employees adds quality to their manhood.
It’s baffling that, in spite of intensive information campaigns in school and the media, gender discrimination continues to persist in the workplace.
The Philippine Commission on Women, the government agency tasked to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, has been relentless in the pursuit of its objective.
To instill respect for women’s rights, March 8 of every year has been declared by Republic Act No. 6949 as National Women’s Day, and the month of March as “Women’s Role In History Month.”
Through these years, the government and private sectors have been engaged in various activities to remind the populace of the significant role that women—the other half of the people holding up the sky—play in the development of our families and the country, as a whole.
With all these efforts, it would be reasonable to expect that discrimination in the workplace would already be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we’re still far from that goal post.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the case of the PAL lady pilot referred to earlier will not be repeated. It’s one too many.
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