HILIPPINE Airlines has added two extended-range Boeing 777-300s to its fleet, enabling it to promote senior cabin crew and to hire new people, the company said over the weekend.
Hundreds of aspiring cabin crew had been flocking to the carrier’s recruitment offices since the new positions were declared open, vice president Jose Uybarreta said.
“PAL maintains a good and competitive track record when it comes to employee salaries and benefits,” Uybarreta said
He said the accusations of low wages and gender discrimination by its cabin crew union had had no impact on the airline’s prospective recruits.
Nobody would want to join the airline if it were abusing or discriminating against its cabin crew, yet it continued to accept 100 applications a day, or close to 20,000 applications over the last nine months. About half of those were for cabin crew positions, Uybarreta said.
An ongoing dispute between management and the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines was placed before the Labor Department for arbitration after the workers threatened to strike toward the end of October.
In the recent mediation talks, the union rejected a management offer of P105 million for increases in salaries and allowances, expanded maternity benefits, and an increase in the retirement age to 45 from 40 for both male and female cabin crew, but on the condition the airline would be able to field mixed crews of both old and new workers.
A junior flight attendant who asked not to be identified said she hoped the union would accept the mixed-crew proposal, which would allow younger crew members to serve on international flights alongside their senior counterparts.
“After all, we are all crew members dreaming of better opportunities and pay,” she said. To reject mixed crews would be to discriminate against younger crew members, she said.
The union earlier said the retirement age of 45 was still “discriminatory” and should not carry any conditions. The economic package should be about P250 million so that the cabin crew’s collective bargaining agreement would be at par with the ground crew’s package.
As the government scrambled to prevent the labor dispute from disrupting Philippine Airlines’ services, foreign carriers warned they would relocate if the Philippines continued to charge what they viewed as excessive taxes.
The Board of Airline Representatives, whose members include 30 air carriers that have international connections from the Philippines, said the common carrier tax and gross Philippine billings were a disincentive for airlines to fly through Manila.
Group vice chairman Steven Crowdey said the US carrier Delta Airlines had already reduced its seating capacity over the taxes, replacing a B747-400 with a Boeing 777, or a reduction of 125 seats per flight.
Last month, Dutch carrier KLM also threatened to pull out of the country because of the common carrier tax. International air carriers used to be covered by a 3-percent common carrier tax, but they are now also subject to a 12-percent value added tax.
“The Philippines is the only country that charges such taxes,” Crowdey said.
“By contrast, neighboring countries’ airports and agencies often offer incentives for carriers to fly into them.”
Crowdey’s group says the carriers that have stopped flying into Manila are British Airways, Air France, United Airlines, Alitalia, Swiss International, Aeroflot, Garuda Indonesia, Egypt Air and Pakistan International Airlines.
Northwest Airlines and Lufthansa had also reduced flights and downgraded operations, Crowdey said.
Eric Apolonio & Jeremiah de Guzman, Manila Standard Today