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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        23  March 2011

Airline workers' union schedules strike vote

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THE Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (Palea) said it will hold a strike vote on Wednesday because of the "unfair" labor practices of the flag carrier's management.

In a statement, Palea said it filed a notice to hold a strike vote on Tuesday morning at the offices of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), Office of the Secretary of Labor and Employment and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-National Capital Region (NCR) because of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management's refusal to negotiate with the union. "We ask for the understanding of the people for the strike we are about to hold. PAL employees have endured almost 13 years of suspension of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and for five months PAL has sat on our request for bargaining negotiations," Gerry Rivera, Palea president said.

"[A] fter all that sacrifice" and PAL is expecting $1.6 billion in yearly revenue" it plans to layoff 2,600 regular workers and make us contractuals in service providers. Enough is enough," he said.

The strike vote will be held at all PAL offices and outlying stations from Laoag to Zamboanga.

Palea said the results of the strike vote are expected by late Thursday, adding that it will submit the outcome to the DOLE on Friday.

The actual strike can then commence after a lapse of seven days. "We call on PAL to resolve the dispute by immediately opening CBA negotiations without preconditions. The issue has dragged on since PAL has been changing its mind erratically. They initially announced they were willing to negotiate. Then they said that they won't until after the termination of half of PAL's workforce. And now they insist that they will negotiate but only with preconditions that are unacceptable to the PAL workers," Rivera said.

"We do not want to derail the evacuation efforts for our OFW's by being forced to go on strike. But the retrenchment of 2,600 workers is also a man-made tsunami for the country. Still it is a disaster that can be prevented by management. The ball is in PAL's court," he added. Earlier, PAL said its operations remain normal amid the latest notice of strike filed by the Palea with the DOLE.

The Lucio Tan-led carrier said flights will continue to operate according to published schedules while all ticket offices and other sales and airport facilities in Metro Manila, the provinces and stations abroad will maintain regular business operations serving customers.

PAL made the assurance of unhampered operations after management said it was open to negotiate a new CBA with its employees' union but only after Malacanang resolves the pending labor issues raised by Palea.

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