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Management change may solve labor row, says PAL union

Lucio Tan INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The ground crew union of Philippine Airlines on Thursday welcomed the possibility of a change in ownership at the flag carrier, saying this might finally put an end to the labor dispute at PAL.

Gerry Rivera, PAL Employees Association (Palea) president, said they viewed the talks between PAL owner Lucio Tan and San Miguel Corp. with “guarded optimism” as it “may create an opportunity to end the flag carrier’s lingering labor dispute.”

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The union said PAL would be able to take off and prevent further losses only by “getting the 2,600 locked-out regular workers back.”

“Bring us back and PAL can fly anew with pride,” said Rivera, adding that PAL operations would be back to normal if the retrenched workers were rehired.

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“As a legacy airline, PAL is about quality service—service that only comes from a quality work force.  The new owners must therefore consider this crucial human resource factor in their ongoing acquisition talks,” he said.

The union said PAL suffered heavy losses in the third and fourth quarters of this year after Palea members opposed the company’s outsourcing

contractualization plan by refusing to transfer to the service providers.

It said that Palea’s protest on September 27 forced the airline to scale down its operations for lack of skilled manpower to operate its passenger and cargo handling operations as well as its catering service.

Palea said it was the “failed outsourcing plan that pulled down the flag carrier’s finances as well as its reputation as consumer confidence (was) greatly affected by labor issues, low quality service and safety concerns.”

Moreover, Palea supporters from local and international trade unions, the Church, the academe, migrant and civil society groups, had launched a successful boycott campaign—all contributing to a significant reduction in PAL’s load factor, the union said.

On December 31, the union’s protest camp located in front of PAL’s In-Flight Center and Catering Services building along MIA Road in Pasay City plans “a noisy camp as Palea members make noise to assertively and confidently greet the New Year with a call to end the labor row at PAL.”

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A “media noche” will also be prepared at the camp similar to “what Paleans shared during their “noche buena” on Christmas Eve,” the union said.

“2011 was really a turbulent year for Palea and the entire labor movement.  Yet despite the storms, our fighting spirit remains intact.  We remain hopeful and we thank everyone who stood with us for keeping us strong and united,” Rivera said.

Earlier this week, food and beer conglomerate San Miguel Corp. confirmed that it was in talks for its possible “participation” in the airline’s

refleeting program, which may involve the infusion of fresh capital.

PAL earlier scaled back its operations significantly as its subcontractors—Sky Kitchen and Sky Logistics—failed to provide enough employees to replace the ones the airline retrenched.

PAL has said its operations were now back to normal as its third-party contractors had hired more workers. But by normal, the company meant that it was flying at its lean season capacity or about 30 percent less than its peak season capability.

Palea said this showed that PAL’s outsourcing was a failure and should be abandoned.

Last month, PAL reported a net loss of $39.4 million for the three-month period ending September, a reversal from its $27.6-million profit a year ago.

The cost of fuel, which accounts for about 40 percent of the company’s expenses, also continues to threaten PAL’s profitability. The company expects to end its fiscal year in March in the red.

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TAGS: labor issues, PAL, PALEA, Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Corp.
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