MANILA, Philippines - Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued yesterday an order barring flight attendants and stewards of Philippine Airlines (PAL) from staging a strike.
Baldoz said she issued an assumption of jurisdiction order prohibiting members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) from proceeding with the planned work stoppage.
“If the cabin crew go on work stoppage as planned, it will be considered as an illegal strike since I have already assumed (jurisdiction) over the PAL labor dispute,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz said under the law, workers found guilty of mounting an illegal strike could lose their jobs.
The Labor chief said she immediately took over the labor dispute since PAL, being the country’s flag carrier, is imbued with national interest aside from the fact that both parties have expressed willingness to submit the case for arbitration.
“Aside from national interest, PAL also expressed willingness for the labor department to assume jurisdiction while FASAP interposed no objection to the manifestation, so I immediately took over the case,” Baldoz explained.
Baldoz said she gave both parties a non-extendable 10-day period upon receipt of the order to submit their respective positions and another non-extendable five-day period for the reply.
“After both parties have submitted their positions and reply, I will decide on the case,” Baldoz said.
FASAP announced their plan to mount a strike by the end of October or early November after their conciliation meetings with PAL management broke down.
Bob Anduiza, FASAP president, said the cabin crew were left with no other resort but to go on strike since PAL refused to heed their demand to remove discriminatory polices in their previous collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Anduiza said FASAP’s position to increase the current 40 years retirement age of flight attendants and to remove other sexist and discriminatory policies is non-negotiable.
PAL management said they would just wait and abide by whatever decision the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) would render on the labor dispute.
FASAP has expressed willingness to abide by the government’s order preventing them from mounting a strike.
Anduiza said the union is obliged to abide by assumption of jurisdiction order issued by the DOLE.
“FASAP has not been officially informed of any order coming from the DOLE to supposedly assume jurisdiction of the labor dispute, but in the event that DOLE will prevent FASAP from exercising its lawful right to go on strike, the union will be obligated to respect this decision,” Anduiza said in a statement.
Anduiza expressed hope that Baldoz would fairly and immediately resolve the dispute, especially the gender and discrimination issues with regards to retirement age, pregnancy and maternity policies.
“We in FASAP sincerely hope that the DOLE will be fair and address the discrimination against female flight attendants whose only desire is to be respected and treated with dignity as Filipino workers,” he said.
Despite the efforts of labor officials to forge a compromise, Anduiza said PAL management refused to correct the firm’s discriminatory policies.
“Instead of taking the righteous path, PAL opted to insist on its hard line positions and pass the ball and its obligations to the discretion of the DOLE Secretary by asking the DOLE to assume jurisdiction of the dispute,” Anduiza said.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline’s passengers could now make their travel plans without fear of getting stranded because of the looming strike.
“Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has assumed jurisdiction over PAL’s labor case. An assumption order has the force and effect of a status quo order which means that FASAP cannot stage a strike or work stoppage while the labor case is being adjudicated,” Villaluna said.
Villaluna said Baldoz’s order also restrained PAL from performing any act that could disturb prevailing conditions.
“Philippine Airlines is grateful to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for putting public interest ahead of any particular group. FASAP’s repeated strike threats are a cause of grave concern for PAL passengers whose travel plans are being unfairly disrupted,” Villaluna said.
Villaluna said passengers are now assured of unhampered operations.
“We advise them to book early for their flights especially for the coming semestral break and All Saints’/Souls’ Day holidays,” she added.
Villaluna said PAL would show DOLE that the airline’s P105-million salary increase and additional rice allocation offer is predicated on the company’s capacity to pay after P15-billion losses in the last two consecutive years.
Villaluna said PAL”s proposal to change the retirement age from 40 to 45 is benchmarked against its competitors in Southeast Asia and the airline industry in general, which puts a high premium on the image and physical fitness of frontline safety officers such as cabin crew.
Villaluna expressed hope that DOLE would be able to judiciously resolve the contentious issues at the soonest possible time so that PAL can operate smoothly and efficiently without threats of work stoppage that unnecessarily scare away customers and investors.
Mayen Jarmalin, Philippine Star