Philippines: PALEA picket Qantas office, Oz embassy in support of Qantas workers

By Labor Party - Philippines

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM - Labor Party - Philippnes) picketed the Qantas office and Australian embassy in a show of solidarity for the embattled workers of the Australian flag carrier. “We extend the hand of solidarity to our brothers and sisters who are for fighting for job security, decent pay and better working conditions. The struggles they are waging mirror the same demands that we are currently fighting for at PAL,” declared Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and PM vice chair.

Some 50 members of PALEA and PM held picketed the Qantas office at a building in Paseo de Roxas in Legaspi Village, Makati by 11:00 a.m. After holding a short program and chanting slogans in support of Qantas workers, the group then proceeded to the Australian embassy in the RCBC Plaza along Ayala Ave.

“Ang laban ng Qantas ay laban ng PALEA. We are all Qantas workers,” the protesters shouted. Rivera explained that “PALEA condemns the drive by Qantas to slash labor costs, undercut labor standards and weaken job security, all in the name of competitiveness. This is a mere myth as Qantas top management has taken salary hikes while forcing sacrifices on workers.”

Meanwhile PALEA dismissed a PAL announcement that it is readying charges against people who blocked a catering truck from leaving the In-Flight Center (IFC). “It is PAL’s habit to threaten its workers in a futile effort at intimidation. They threatened administrative cases against employees for joining mass actions and they said they will file an illegal strike charge but none come of it. But this time, the threat is also a means for PAL to divert attention from its culpability in the violent daybreak attack on the PALEA protest camp which led to the death of one bystander and injuries to seven of our members. PAL’s best defense is offense,” Rivera insisted.

He added that “PAL could only invent the lamest excuse—that PALEA foisted the attack on its own campout. Unfortunately for PAL and its outsourced goons-provider, one of the attackers was caught and gave some damning admission. But the bigger question that people should ask is this: Why does PAL want the IFC to operate when it has declared that the airport services, call center reservations and catering departments have been closed? If Sky Kitchen and Sky Logistics need the IFC then these are illegal labor-only contractors not independent service providers.”

PALEA and PM also criticized the Australian labor court called Fair Work Australia (FWA) for “surrendering to the lockout blackmail of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.” In a ruling, the FWA lifted the lockout but also stopped strikes by the three Qantas unions. “Workers now have 21 days within which to negotiate with the hardline Qantas management without the leverage of strike action. In the face of intransigence by Qantas, only industrial action can force employers to heed the demands of workers,” Rivera argued.

The Qantas union Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) had expressed solidarity for PALEA after some 2,400 its members were retrenched as part of a controversial outsourcing scheme that has been slammed as “a bid to demolish job security and also bust the union.”


Labor groups vowed to launch more protest actions vs. PAL

A broad coalition of labor groups against contractual employment vowed to intensify protest actions against the management of Philippine Airlines and until President Benigno Aquino III reverses his decision upholding the outsourcing of PAL workers.

“Protest has become the only available recourse for the workers who have to constantly resist the threat to jobs security and most especially their inherent human right to unionize and engage in Collective Bargaining Agreement to improve their plight. We are even more disappointed that President Aquino opted to side with Mr. Lucio Tan who is the epitome of corporate greed,” said Josua Mata, Co-Convenor of Koalisyon Kontra sa Kontraktwalisasyon (KONTRA) and Secretary General of Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL).

Major trade unions and labor groups around the country have banded together to form KONTRA to arrest the growing threat of contractualization that will leave the livelihood of workers and their families at the mercy of the profit interests of capitalists and company owners.

“We appeal for the people’s understanding. Whatever happened to the workers of PAL will become the reality to them and to millions of other workers who will be removed from their regular jobs and subjected to contract employment with low salaries and no security of tenure,” Mata explained.

PALEA sought Presidential Intervention on this case as early as November of last year but the Office of the President ruled in favor of PAL.

The President has the power to intervene and assume direct jurisdiction over any labor dispute involving industries that, in his opinion, are indispensable to the national interest.

Mata said President Aquino continues to ignore the workers’ appeal and even engaged in tasteless media grandstanding that pitted the PAL workers with the migrant workers.

In a statement following the protest that started on September 27, President Aquino was quoted as saying the interest of the millions of Filipinos working abroad is heavier than the interest of the 2,600 workers.

This prompted the migrant workers to issue statements criticizing this justification.

The Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) issued a statement yesterday rejecting this claim of the President.

“We shall never condone that the rights of our fellow workers be violated in our name. The anti-worker actions of PAL management serve only itself and its profit motive – not the migrants, not the workers. Undermining the legitimate rights of workers in the Philippines ultimately reduces our rights overseas and makes us more vulnerable to corporate greed and employer abuses,” said Rex Varona, MFA Spokesperson.

Varona said the basic interest of 10 million OFWs and the interest of 2,000 workers are one and the same. “In the same way that we demand host countries to respect our right to unionise and give us our just wages and job security – we shall never accept that the rights and job security of workers in the Philippines be violated,” he added.

The group also called on their fellow migrant workers in Asia especially the OFWs coming home for the holidays, to boycott PAL.

MFA is an Asia-wide network of migrant organizations, trade unions and advocates.

“We shall continue to do this, and call on our fellow OFWs to do the same, until PAL management rectifies the violations and fully respects PALEA and the allied unions. We, Filipino and other Asian migrant workers, stand in firm solidarity and support for the PAL workers. An attack against workers anywhere is an attack to all workers everywhere,” the MFA said.