Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crew protest Philippine Airlines outsourcing plans

MANILA — Hundreds of Philippine Airlines ground crew took to the streets Tuesday to urge President Benigno Aquino to stop the flag carrier from farming out their jobs to other companies.

Riot police blocked a road leading to Malacanang presidential palace as union members marched on Aquino's office calling on him to reverse a labour department ruling on their case that was handed down last weekend.

The department upheld PAL's decision to outsource its in-flight catering, cargo handling and call centre reservation services, a ruling that union leader Gerry Rivera said could lead to the loss of 2,600 jobs.

"We stand to lose our jobs, and many of us have invested our lives (in) the airline," Rivera told AFP.

"The president can always reverse the unlawful decision, because the labour department is an extension of his office," he added.

PAL president Jaime Bautista called on the ground staff to respect the ruling and warned the ground staff against walking out and disrupting operations.

Bautista told local television that the airline planned to implement its outsourcing plan for ground crew, in consultation with the affected union, to ensure a smooth change.

"There is process that we will have to follow and we will have to submit and tender notices, and we want them to accept this," he said.

The labour department also ruled that PAL should guarantee that the ground crew would be absorbed by the service providers and given commensurate separation pay.

Rivera told AFP the union planned to sue PAL and continue its street protests.

The dispute with the ground staff, one of three restive unions within the airline, is the latest in a string of setbacks for PAL.

Last month, the government stopped a planned strike by cabin crew who were demanding higher wages and a lifting of a company policy that forces female attendants to retire when they reach 40.

The labour department is set to rule on that case this month after it ordered the two sides to submit to arbitration.

In August, 25 pilots and first officers on PAL's short-haul aircraft suddenly resigned for higher paying jobs abroad, forcing the abrupt cancellation of several flights.

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