Philippine Airlines Flight Attendants Plan Strike For End Of October

 

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Philippine Airlines Flight Attendants Plan Strike For End Of October

By Daniel Baxter
 

October 1, 2010 - Philippine Airlines (PAL) has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to take immediate steps to avert a planned strike by its flight attendants.

PAL made the appeal following the decision of its cabin crew union to withdraw from talks and its announcement to proceed with its planned work stoppage.

"PAL would like to assure our passengers that a strike will not happen overnight. Management is asking DOLE to immediately step in to avert the strike and protect the interests of the riding public," PAL spokesperson, Cielo Villaluna.

 

"It was upon DOLE's recommendation that PAL and the Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philippines (FASAP) agreed to a recess and to meet again next week. PAL management was surprised by FASAP's sudden turnaround by announcing their decision to strike," she stressed.

Villaluna said PAL has been negotiating in good faith and has bent backwards to accommodate some of the FASAP's demands. "It is the union that is playing hardball, dismissing outright management's offers without even a second glance. Villaluna explained that PAL's P105-million is hardly unreasonable considering the airline's staggering losses in the last two years. PAL, she added, even agreed to increase the retirement age to 45 from 40 if the union would allow junior cabin crew members to fly international along with their senior counterparts.

"Contrary to FASAP's claims, there will be no layoffs as a result of the mixed crew scheme. There will also be no reduction in flight assignments and pay of international cabin attendants. Why is FASAP so averse to the idea of their younger members earning a little more?" Villaluna added that PAL's early retirement age is benchmarked to other carriers in the region. "PAL maintains that while the early retirement age is negotiable, it is by no means illegal or immoral."

Philippine Airlines is preparing emergency measures in case such a strike should occur. PAL is hopeful that DOLE will immediately step in to avert any work stoppage that can wreak havoc to the economy. Villaluna added that from day one, "FASAP has not shown any intention to consider anything short of their demands. "A negotiation is like a two-way street; it's give and take. It's very difficult to deal and negotiate with a party who only wants things to go their way."

 

The management of Philippine Airlines (PAL), led by its President Jaime Bautista, urged the Flight Attendants’ and Stewards’ Association of the Philippines (FASAP) to seriously consider and accept PAL’s P105-million economic offer as well as the proposed retirement age of 45 for those hired by the airline after November 2000. The call was made at the resumption of conciliation talks between PAL management and FASAP at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The tripartite conciliation conference is the fourth meeting since FASAP filed its notice of strike last September 9, 2010. Three conciliation conferences between both sides have been held under the auspices of DOLE.

“I wish to assure FASAP members that PAL management is not taking a hardline stance. Despite serious financial difficulties, the company bent backwards to provide FASAP members what it believes is a fair amount of pay increase and benefits that it can afford at this time,” Bautista stressed. Saying that PAL is sincere in its efforts to put closure to the 2005-2010 CBA, Bautista is hopeful that FASAP will also show some degree of flexibility. “Nothing less than a true meeting of minds is needed to resolve the current impasse.”

“As of the last round of talks, agreements in principle were only on maternity–related benefits, and rice allowances amounting to P25-million. The agreement between both sides must be forged as a package in order to settle all economic, gender and retirement issues”. Bautista said P105-million from the original P80-million is PAL’s best offer given massive losses of US$312-million or over P15-billion in the last two years. Meanwhile, the early retirement age is “benchmarked” on PAL’s major competitors in the region whose cabin crews are retired between the age of 35 and 45.

As a precondition to the change in retirement age to 45 from the current 40, PAL is pushing for the mixed crew complement. The set up will allow both international and domestic crews to work side-by-side. “By allowing domestic crews to fly international and international crews to fly domestic routes, we hope to achieve two things: 1) allow domestic crews to experience flying abroad to earn more in terms of per diems and other allowances; and 2) maximize utilization of PAL crew members, thus reducing need to hire more cabin attendants and therefore save on costs,” Bautista said.

FASAP has reported it will proceed with its strike after coming out from Tuesday’s conciliation meetings with the Lucio Tan-led PAL management at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board / Department of Labor and Employment. The talks are deadlocked. FASAP president Bob Anduiza said “PAL is playing games and is insisting on its unreasonable retirement age limit. They are not serious in resolving the dispute. PAL is just playing deaf and blind to the concerns of the flight attendants.”

According to FASAP, during the DOLE Conciliation Meetings, FASAP readily reduced its issues and limited the concerns to only three (3) items, touching mainly on the age and gender discrimination issues. In a statement, FASAP said, “PAL is adding more conditions to muddle the issue and intends to make more money out of the dispute. Its proposals to move the retirement age from 40 to 45 on condition on drastic work-rule changes to mix the domestic and international operations will result to retrenchment and mega-profits for PAL. PAL wants to paint itself as “reasonable” but the real motive is to exploit the flight attendants.”

When asked when the strike will be held, Anduiza said “that it can happen between the end of October and the first week of November after the mandated cooling-off period and the holding of the strike vote.” “PAL misses the point. This is not about making money. This dispute is about discrimination. The Philippine Commission on Women has already pronounced that PAL's policy towards its female flight attendants is discriminatory. The Commission on Human Rights chair, Ms. Etta Rosales has also pointed-out that PAL's retirement, pregnancy and maternity provisions for flight attendants are sexist and discriminatory, in violation of their human rights.”Anduiza stressed.

According to FASAP, PAL is also refusing to correct the minimum wage levels on the flight attendants' basic salaries. During yesterday's NCMB meetings, a DOLE representative presented the correct minimum wage levels from the year 2000 up to the present. “It clearly showed that the PAL flight attendants' entry level pay of P8, 605 is way, way below the present P12, 288 minimum wage.” Bob Anduiza pointed-out.

Bob Anduiza lamented that “we believe that PAL can well afford to pay and settle the labor dispute based on the hundreds of millions PAL has saving due to the under-manning of crew per flight. The crews are already working more and are being paid less. The problem is PAL does not want to prioritize taking care of the flight attendants.”

FASAP finds no more need to meet with PAL and will now concentrate on preparing for the strike. “FASAP will proceed with its strike as planned to protest against PAL's outdated and sexist policies. This is not merely about pay increases, this is mainly about the respect and dignity of female flight attendants. It's about discrimination.” Bob Anduiza added.

 

 
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