Airport cleaners protest termination

Buena Bernal
Airport cleaners protest termination
Some of the 21 workers say their termination was sudden and based on overblown offenses. The airport management says it has reason to fire them.

MANILA, Philippines – The new management of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 fired 21 airport cleaners for various offenses, and some of them are protesting the decision, Rappler learned.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), however, defended the termination. “Most of those terminated had violations such as being AWOL (absent without leave) and abandoning posts,” said spokesperson David de Castro.

“They were given warnings prior to termination to practice due diligence at work. However, after still not meeting standards set by management, they were given memos as to their termination which they also acknowledged,” he explained.

Workers interviewed by Rappler lamented that their termination was sudden and based on overblown offenses. Some offenses that they had been previously suspended for were again cited in their termination papers.

Mary Ann Macaban, housekeeping attendant at the airport for 4 years, said she was merely taking a “power nap” after two consecutive 8-hour shifts some hours before another 8-hour shift.

Her termination paper says she was fired for “sleeping while on duty,” an instance on April 10.

Because she was caught sleeping, she was also deemed “wasting time.” The April 10 violation was also considered “insubordination,” an accusation she denies. She said she would have gotten back to cleaning if her superior only woke her up and gave her a warning.

The sleeping incident constituted 3 violations in total and became grounds for termination. The termination letter based on the April 10 incident was served to her after her shift on May 16.

Wala man lang abiso (There wasn’t even a warning),” Macaban said.

Macaban, 31, is a single mother who migrated from Bulacan province to Manila to earn for his son. Two other long-time workers at NAIA – one for 7 years and another for 10 years – suffered the same fate.

Binigla po nila kami…. Kinalkal po nila [mga] violation. Parang hindi nila ‘dinaan sa tamang proseso,” said Crispy Colis, a 30-year-old mother who has worked as a housekeeping attendant at NAIA since 2009. (They surprised us…. They dug up old violations. It didn’t seem like it went through the right process.)

FIRED. Mary Ann Macaban, housekeeping attendant with government for 4 years, shares her story with Rappler. Photo by Faye Sales

More terminations?

Another worker, who is still with MIAA but refused to be named, said NAIA Terminal 3 administration chief Maria Teresa Gaerlan warned them of more terminations during a morning meeting.

The cleaner, whose narrative was backed by other workers who refused to be identified, said Gaerlan cited NAIA’s vision toward becoming a world-class airport for weeding out old workers. She likened them to rotten apples affecting the fresh ones. 

Speaking for Gaerlan, MIAA’s De Castro said the terminal chief was “misinterpreted,” when she was merely explaining to the workers that more violations “would mean more terminations.”

He added that the fired workers were “rated poorly” not by Gaerlan but by their very group leaders at the NAIA Terminal 3 general services section.

He said many of the workers may not be too happy with the “change of management,” prompting their negative comments.

De Castro gave assurances that NAIA “does not just terminate anyone,” backing the credibility of Gaerlan as a competent leader.

“There are certain standards,” he said of terminations in NAIA.

MIAA has instituted reforms to supposedly create a better experience for travelers, but some of these have drawn flak from certain sectors. NAIA is notorious for traveler complaints and cited as among the world’s worst airports(READ: MIAA: Why merging terminal fees is needed, easy)

Asked about the system of replacing old workers to supposedly create better services in government, labor leader Josua Mata explained that it is “counterintuitive” to “get rid of your most experienced people.”

Former Akbayan representative and labor rights advocate Walden Bello said “the government should not be allowed to get away” with the proliferation of precarious work in government offices. “Public employment,” he said, is “a major part of the workforce.”  Rappler.com

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