PAL workers willing to settle in row over outsourcing plan

October 22, 2009

By Louella D. Desiderio

RANK-AND-FILE Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees are seeking discussions with the airline management outside the Labor department’s supervision on the company’s plan to outsource "non-core" services.

PAL Employees Association (PALEA) President Edgardo C. Oredina said in a telephone interview yesterday that the group has sent a letter to PAL Chairman Lucio C. Tan asking the management to reconsider its plan to outsource ground-handling jobs.

He said the group stated in the letter that it was willing to forge a compromise agreement to help the management cope with the economic downturn. "We would like to discuss with the PAL management other cost-saving measures to address the crisis and prevent the implementation of the outsourcing plan," he said.

The management’s decision to outsource, he said, came at a time when union members were suffering from the harsh effects of tropical storm Ondoy.

The letter was submitted to the office of Mr. Tan on Oct. 8, the same date that PALEA asked for a suspension of preventive mediation at the National Mediation and Conciliation Board.

"We opted to suspend the proceedings because nothing is happening. There is no change in PAL’s position on the planned outsourcing," Mr. Oredina said.

With no hope of reaching an agreement with the PAL management, the group had considered taking "mass action" to oppose the outsourcing plan, which the union claims will leave as much as 4,000 workers jobless.

He said the group later decided to defer protests after PAL President Jaime J. Bautista informed him by telephone last week that the serving of notices of termination to employees under departments set to be outsourced would not push through and that the management would meet with the PALEA for further talks.

The talks, he said would likely take place next week.

Mr. Bautista could not be reached for comment yesterday.

On Sept. 22, PALEA filed a request for preventive mediation at the Labor department over the airline’s plan to outsource services including catering, passenger handling, ramp handling, and cargo-handling operations.

The plan was disclosed by Mr. Bautista to union officials in a notice dated Sept. 9. In the notice, Mr. Bautista said some services needed to be outsourced to prevent further losses and preserve the airline’s assets.

PAL has more than 8,000 employees, with half belonging to the rank-and-file union.

In 1998, PAL was forced to go into receivership in the aftermath of the Asian crisis. It returned to profit in 2000 and was declared in financial health two years ago.

For the fiscal year ending March, PAL lost $301.4 million as a result of higher expenses brought about by the cost of operating more flights and last year’s record-high fuel prices. The airline, however, reported $35.5 million in profits for its first quarter ending June. - Businessworld.

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