Pasko ng PALEA

This is the second Christmas that PALEA has spent at the picket line

Esther Gonzaga with her family Christmas Eve

MANILA, Philippines – Since its members were removed from their jobs on Sept 11, 2011, the Philippine Airlines Employee Association (PALEA) has maintained a protest camp outside the Philippine Airlines in-flight services office in Pasay City.

PAL implemented an outsourcing program and ejected the union members from their posts. Members of PALEA (some had been working for more than 30 years) refuse to accept severance packages or jobs in the newly-created contracting firms that would cut their wages in half.

PALEA staged a protest last Dec 10, 2012 in front of the San Miguel Corp building in Pasig City to commemorate Human Rights Day. The protest was also a response to the recent arrests of PALEA members Esther Gonzaga and Romeo Sayas.

Sayas was arrested October 16, then released several days later. Gonzaga was arrested November 7, then released upon posting bail. “Grave Coercion” charges remain, and warrants could be served for another 37 members.

The charges stem from a protest action last year, when union members blocked a truck from leaving PAL’s in-flight services. While PALEA members blocked the truck, a group of armed men attacked their camp, where women and children were sleeping.

PALEA accused PAL of hiring these “goons” to tear down their camp.

In response, PAL filed “Grave Coercion” charges for alleged violation of RA 9497 or the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Law, specifically Section 81 (b) (5) which sanctions “any person who destroys or seriously damages the facilities of an airport or disrupts the services of an airport.”

PALEA president Gerry Rivera cites Department of Justice Ministry Circular No. 15 (Series of 1982) and DOLE Order No. 40-G-03 (Series of 2010), which state that “no criminal information can be filed against workers without the required clearance from the DOLE.”

PAL’s new president, Ramon Ang, has renewed negotiations with PALEA, and claims that he will pursue a different course in resolving the labor dispute.

Rivera called on Ang “to facilitate the resolution of the labor dispute by dropping the trumped up charges against our members which were filed under the old company management of Jaime Bautista.”

“These officers of the court not only defied labor statutes but infringed on our members right to due process, and thus deserve to face administrative charges,” said Rivera.

Gonzaga is confident the charges will be dropped, for “lack of interest” on the part of the prosecution. PAL lawyers have missed 3 consecutive court hearings.

During an interview at the PAL stockholders meeting last September 27,  Ang stated: “We have a good starting point, and I hope to be able to find a solution, to look for a middle ground.” Ang was referring to renewed meetings with PALEA officers where both sides called for a speedy resolution to the labor dispute.

However, this is the second Christmas that PALEA has spent at the picket line. –