Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PAL Employees Association Work Stoppage: A Lesson in "Entitlement"

It seems all hell broke loose yesterday.

Typhoon Pedring went amuck in Metro Manila with fierce winds and driving rain, forcing the suspension of classes and the closure of government offices.  Half listening to the radio while driving to a meeting in Ayala Avenue in Makati City, I could only imagine how the rest of the city was taking the beating.

Image from Manila Times

I wasn't so much concerned about the strong winds that were blowing down trees and billboards.  I was more concerned about Harvard Street, Provident Village in Marikina City and the water level of the Marikina River.

Two years and 2 days ago, Ondoy (not a typhoon) went through Manila and dumped more than a month's worth of rain in a span of hours.  Most of Metro Manila experienced flooding that only those who were alive in the 50's and 60's can remember.

As a Manilenyo, I tend to think of flooding with images of myself walking through black, stinky water along Espana Street in Manila.  It is the tame but icky black type of flooding that can only be described as every septic tank in Manila disgorging its contents on the street.

However, the flooding in Provident Village Marikina was a raging, brown torrent that in a matter of minutes submerged everyone's homes in 20 feet of water.

Just as I was about to park, reports on the radio of the work stoppage of Philippine Airline Employees Association or PALEA starting coming on.

Three hundred PALEA members who were supposed to be on duty that day had apparently timed in and manned their positions but refused to do their work.

Flitting from one AM station to the next, I heard some commentators describe it as a sit-down strike and others as work stoppage.

I couldn't help but think, "What the frick!"  All hell is breaking loose right now and these people decide to engage in what is definitely a protest against their company's management.

For the past couple of days I've been reading stories about how 1,400 to 2,000 PAL employees were protesting against what is called the PAL Spin-Off.

The terms of the Spin-Off, as I understand it, will cause PAL employees to be terminated with what seems like a generous separation benefit (125% of their monthly pay for every year they've worked in PAL) and then re-hired by outsourcing companies that PAL had contracted to provide passenger services.

From the looks of it, PAL Employees weren't being heartlessly axed and left all alone to fend for themselves in a tough job market. They were actually going to be re-hired by the out sourcing companies that PAL contracted for services.

Members of PALEA, of course, didn't think this was right and insisted that PAL should not terminate their employment.

They want to be kept employed under PAL even in the face of the fact that their company was not doing well financially, which is a good reason enough to start sacking people.

When other companies in the Philippines fall under hard times and have to let go of workers, most of the times these workers don't even get a separation pay and aren't even assured of employment at another company.

So, being on the outside looking in, I find it difficult to understand what they are protesting and if you were at all one of the passengers that flew on PAL yesterday, I don't think you'd actually sympathize with their "plight".

Prior to the PAL employee's work stoppage yesterday, about 34 flights were cancelled the day before due to bad weather.  I would guess that a number of those who flew in yesterday were from previously cancelled flights and were anxious to get on with their business or be in the arms of their loved ones.  More so, perhaps, because a number of them might be worried that their families and loved ones are having a difficult time at the height of Typhoon Pedring.

In a factory, when workers engage in work stoppage, the most serious thing that happens is that the company doesn't produce anything it can sell.  But in a service oriented business, this can spell a lot of inconvenience and if it is a public service as vital as an airline, it can some times be downright dangerous.

Can you imagine baggage crew not loading people's baggage improperly or overlooking the dozens of safety protocols just because they are on a sit-down strike?  Can you imagine spoiled food being served in flight? That's not to mention the thousands of passengers who might have been forced to stay at the airport looking for information or seeking some assistance.

It was a good thing though that PAL managed to field volunteers to take over the jobs that weren't being done by the striking PAL employees.  Perhaps it should have fielded the volunteers sooner but apparently they were kept from doing so and had to wait until the end of the shift of the striking employees.

All in all, I guess PAL employees should have thought their actions through first before engaging in a protest action that could have been dangerous or direly inconvenient.


stellarleni said...

The thing is this is what PAL's PR have been saying. Sadly, marginalized sectors like workers cannot compete with a company that has the PR machinery to twist all stories to their side.

Fact: 2,600 workers will be laid off

Fact: PAL says because they suffer from economic losses.

Fact: PAL earned a total comprehensive income of US$ 72.5 MILLION (net income of US$65.5 Million plus other income) for the fiscal year which ended on March 31, 2011. According to the company’s Financial Statement, this is “a significant turnaround from the previous fiscal year’s total comprehensive loss of US$ 14.4 million.” Converted to Philippine Pesos, PAL’s income amounted to MORE THAN PhP 3 BILLION (computed at $1: PhP 42.50).

Fact: Yes, sep pay is 125% month pay per yr of service + gratuity pay 100k (parang bonus, candy pang-akit)

Fact: The you have the option to be hired as contractual worker of the service provider. If you're a reseervation agent from P22,000 salary mo sa PAL, you will now earn P10,000 na lang under their service contractor SPI global. If you are a master mechanic then from P28,000 to P11,111.50.

Fact: Being contractual your work is good for 6 months only. No security that you will be hired again.

Sometimes, there are things that news reports will not fully present us.

Paul Farol said...

Thanks Stellar Lani.

From where I am, mukhang okay naman iyong offer except for the fact na yun nga, contractual.

But you know what?

I've been essentially a contractual employee for 15 years and I've realized that there is no thing such as job security talaga.

Kung ang mga OFW nga eh naka-depende sa kontrata at halos 20k lang ang kinikita per month (malayo pa sila sa mga pamilya nila hah), eh tingin ko mas okay ang may kontrata sa sariling bansa.

Pasensya na ha, iyong akin lang naman ay munting puna.

Thanks for commenting!

stellarleni said...

There is such a thing as job security po. It is our right. The sad thing is nasanay na tayo to give up our rights because we are given no choice because of our economic situation.

I'm sure no one will want to be separated from their families but OFWs are left with no choice.

Kung di po tayo makikipaglaban para sa ating karapatan, masanay na lang po ba tayo lagi na isakripisyo ang ating mga pangarap sa buhay?

San wag tayong masanay na mawala ang ating dignidad bilang tao.

Paul Farol said...

Most people I encounter have a poor appreciation of what constitutes a "right" and what is in fact a "privilege".

So, forgive me for being blunt here, but I don't think anyone has a right to "security of tenure" these days.

Perhaps, in the past, when the world economy could support the idea of people holding on to a job until their retirement decades later, companies could afford it.

These days, even in Japan, workers are not assured they will grow old in their companies -- unless of course, they continue to significantly add to their company's over all performance.

Security of tenure is just another way of saying "the world owes me a job because I grew old".

Well, that's just how I see it.

Anonymous said...

125%? Plus Gratuity?

If you are earning 22,000 a month, you will potentially get 237,500. That's pretty generous. And if you get 6 months to work as a contractual employee, it gives you so much time to look for another job.

Also, we talk about employee rights but really if business owners decide to shutdown, they still have money and guess what, no more jobs.

Businesses need profit to continue to operate. They need more profit to have an incentive to grow and continue to operate. This is a reality that we need to accept. Beyond job security, this is nothing if there are no jobs to secure in the first place.

Paul Farol said...

Thanks Aftermatt.

I think employees who've been working for less than a year will really benefit from the separation benefit.

More likely, it will benefit people who are in their late thirties, forties or fifties. I imagine some of them may have put in some 10 to 15 years of work at PAL.

So, you can imagine, if they're earning something like 40,000 a month, that's something like 500,000 pesos.

And they don't really have to spend all that money since they are getting jobs in the outsourcing company that PAL is bringing in.

If at all any of them had been outstanding in their jobs, perhaps these people wouldn't really be scared of being axed and would probably have moved on to companies who can give them better compensation.

Anonymous said...


I'm in the BPO industry and working as part of the non operations division (non agent positions) and from my experience, if there are people who need to be displaced to increase efficiency, they look at us first. And our people would only get 100% without gratuity. Quite less. But i guess the point is that we dont wage war against the management. We realize that it is just part of the business cycle. And possessing specialized skills make us competitive so we are not really afraid to go out of our comfort zone and look for other employment.

I think most of the big deal comes from our attachment to our jobs, complacency, refusal to be competitive and pride.

In our day and age, people not only have to do their jobs to stay in their positions. They also have to provide their "value add" which sometimes mean that if I need to do 2 persons worth of work I will do it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt!
I think the reason why you don't understand what they're fighting for is because you are not working for a real job. These people, especially those who are serving the company for decades, have dedicated their lives in providing service to the customers of PAL longer than I've been alive to date. BPO industry in the Philippines just started about 10-15 years and it is only now that they are on bloom because it is providing jobs for college graduates/undergrads that cannot find a job for their chosen career. Given the chance of equal job opportunity I don't think professionals would consider sending resumes to such companies. The job you are working for is just a "pay the bills" job or probably why you like it so much is because it gives you more for so little of what you give. I've been in the industry and God knows how easy it is talking to clients. It is only you guys who put pressure to yourselves considering it as a very stressful work and yet even undergrads do qualify for such positions. Lives are at stake for some jobs offered by PALEA employees and do you think you by staying at your airconditioned stations could do that. And do you even consider those near the retirement age that will be put to this spinoff. Would your industry even consider hiring them if the company decided not to hire them after 6 months for they still are not prepared to retire? That is why these union members are standing up against this labor practice. Your generation have accepted the policy and now these people are fighting for our future who are still looking for a company that would provide security for our families . BPO is everywhere that is why you are not afraid to lose your job. This union busting move of PAL would literally put employees to being just employees. They will have no voice so it is better to just find another job but what if the situation doesn’t warrant you especially for the seniors. Nobody likes to be employees forever but if you will be, it is better to have a group to back you up against at least. Just saying!


Chino said...

I think this whole PALEA thing can be seen as a result of an environment that is so unfriendly to business.

Security of tenure isn't so much a right to me than a privilege. I believe having a job that pays enough is the right. Problem is, our country's business environment does not support that.

Paul Farol said...


But aren't the older PALEA members getting 125percent of the monthly salaries per year of service plus 100,000 gratuity?

Moreover, aren't they being offered a job in the outsourcing company?

It's not as of PAL was just firing them out right.

That's what I really don't get.

Anonymous said...

hi paul,

i believe all of them are offered with that. but because of the spinoff they would now receive less of what they have worked for. i know that even contractuals are entitled to an annual increase in pay but after this, all of the years they've served will be gone and they'll even start at a lower wage, quite enough to pay for their medical expenses also from downgrading their medical plans. they have invested their loyalty to PAL and yet after the decades they will just lay them off. they are offered jobs with the third party company but as probationary for 6 months and after that PAL can easily dispose them as these poor newly hired CSAs . this is the job security that the union is fighting for.


Ben Kritz said...

Divesting business units is a management prerogative. Believe me, I'm about the last person in the country to give PAL props for the way they run their business, but the outsourcing plan is completely beyond the purview of labor relations. And as bad as PAL's management is, the leadership of PALEA is even more stupid, and has almost willfully made every possible tactical mistake in dealing with this issue for more than a year. PALEA has never argued that the separation packages were unfair -- an argument the public might understand and be sympathetic to -- but instead that PAL should not be allowed to go through with the spin-off, which defies basic logic. And they wait until the 11th hour, 3 days before the outsourcing plan goes into motion, at the height of a typhoon, to stage an action that tries to earn support for their illogical position by pissing off the flying public.

So how'd that work out for you, Mr. or Ms. "We have a right to job security?" Maybe not so well, I'd guess.

Paul Farol said...

Ben and Chino, thanks for chiming in.

I guess, my real beef here is not so much about PAL as an unjust Oligarch/Crony/Establishment but the act of fighting impunity in the way that the PALEA did.

Yes, I think it was a tactical error and this is exacerbated by the fact that some of them also resorted to planking on Monday.

Instead of looking like the good guys or David in the Biblical fight with Goliath, PALEA looked like a spoiled brat who didn't get all the pink Fruity Loops in the box.

The thing is, and I am not at all saying it is right, PAL can and will do whatever it can to protect the interest of No. 1.

PALEA has to understand that the days of strikes and street protests have definitely become anachronistic.

Holding management and its clients/customers hostage never worked, at least not all the time.

The romantic and ideal effect of the supposed sit down would have been to cause the downfall of the oligarch/crony/establishment...

But guess what? It didn't.

It's a ploy that works out well in movies and books, but in real life the concluding chapter of such moves usually ends up with people filing cases in court and signing up for years of hearings.

The real solution is to dismantle the monopoly that is PAL by allowing 100 percent foreign capital ownership.

That's equivalent to clobbering the real monster, and in the immortal words of Yosemite Sam, we can all exclaim. "That'll learn ya!"

Matt said...


Its funny how you define what a real job is... If you think talking to irate customers is easier that someone who sits and prints out boarding passes then that's your opinion...

Also, clearly you don't know what the BPO industry is. We might be the only industry to employ differently abled people as well as those in their 50's. So really, if there is an industry who might take them, that is the BPO industry.

We're not talking about employees who perform core duties here (i.e. Pilots, cabin crew). Non-core employees may have come from various backgrounds and it may not be hard for them to start from the ground up. Printing boarding passes and ticketing isn't exactly taught in school. I don't non-core employees should be-little BPO work.

And as I have mentioned, I do not work as part of the agent pool. You can look at my CV if you want to know exactly what I do, how on a daily basis I need to make sure that projects that I oversee are going pretty well, how I need to get a certification to justify my position should be given to a Filipino, and how on daily basis I need to use my calculus and statistics knowledge.

Paul Farol said...

The thing on my mind right now is, "What will happen to the 300 or so strikers that participated in what PAL claims to be an illegal work stoppage?"

There are even accounts of actual sabotage being performed.

I can't help feeling that the strikers were either duped or co-opted by leftist oriented groups, baka naman may na-brain wash na maging terrorista.

I'm getting stories from some sources and it seems to be pointing that way. I really, really hope none of it is true.

Anonymous said...

Mr Kritz and Mr Farol are both media practitioners. PR i believe is part of that work so methinks you protest too much. Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.

hasta la vista said...

farol why are you such a faggot?

Paul Farol said...


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