The PALEA Assault on the Filipino People

I have been following the bizarre drama of Philippine Airlines, “the world’s most entertaining air carrier”, for nearly a year as it has struggled mightily – and at times, comically so – towards implementing an outsourcing plan which PAL hopes will turn its financial fortunes around. The sticking point throughout the whole sorry saga has been the resistance of the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA), which represents the 2,600 catering, reservations, and ground service workers who have been made redundant by the plan of PAL to divest itself of those three business units.

On Tuesday, with Manila and most of the rest of Luzon already dealing with being pounded by Typhoon Pedring, the PAL-PALEA dispute came to an ugly head when 300 or so PALEA employees staged an all-day “work stoppage” at NAIA, forcing PAL to suspend all operations and stranding, according to an airline spokesperson, about 14,000 passengers. The wildcat strike, which was patently illegal according to Philippine labor law and presumably punishable under the terms of the Civil Aviation Act of 2008 has sparked the predictable debate online, much of it rather idiotic if the examples strained from the Net and posted by Paul Farol over at Pinoy Buzz yesterday are any indication, including this gem he dug out of Raissa Robles’ blog:

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, blogger and Journalist Raissa Robles needles PAL over an apparent attempt to mislead people with semantics, specifically with the word “non-core personnel”:

I can’t help but notice that a sit-down protest held by PAL’s ground employees yesterday totally paralyzed company operations and caused 14,000 passengers to miss their flights.  

Didn’t PAL keep saying – to justify the sacking of several thousand employees – that what they were out-sourcing were “non-core” activities?  

“Non-core” would mean that these activities are not that vital to their day-to-day operations, right?  

And yet when these “non-core” personnel struck yesterday, company operations were turned into total chaos.

Robles then leaves a link to a previous article where she underscores her abilities as an investigative journalist. Robles essentially tries to contextualize PALEA’s strike, somewhat suggesting it is a justifiable recourse despite what the Civil Aviation Act of 2008 says.

So, Ms. Raissa is an investigative journalist. Good for her. I am, among other things, a consultant and analyst of the airline industry, and coincidentally happen to be working right now with a sizeable Middle Eastern carrier on various issues concerning its own outsourcing plan. So I have the privilege of drawing on a bit more specific knowledge than she can when I commented on her brief and sarcastic post with:

You seem to have a rather naïve understanding of what a “core employee” is to an airline. The “core task” as far as any airline is concerned is moving paying passengers from one point to another by means of an aircraft. That requires flight crews to operate the aircraft, and cabin crews to maintain passenger safety. Everything and everybody else is “non-core”. Essential for efficiency and productivity, yes, but not necessarily something the airline needs to provide itself, if useful alternatives (such as contractors) are reliably available.

Outsourcing is the way of the world in the airline industry, it’s sensible business. Personally, I’m skeptical of PAL’s ability to manage tying their own shoes correctly, but I’ll tell you what, I’d think even less of them from a business perspective if they didn’t do this spin-off. PALEA has had more than a year to come to terms with this, and they have consistently picked the most idiotic and counter-productive choice [of how to respond] every time they’ve had a chance.

Could PAL have handled the situation on Tuesday better? Probably. But if I’m a suddenly-stranded passenger, already dealing with a typhoon and faced with some planking jackass at the check-in counter preventing me from getting on my flight home, or to the job overseas I need to send my kids to school, I’m not going to blame the abstraction of PAL management. I’m going to blame the fool in front of me who’s visibly ruining my day, and the group represented by the name PALEA on the sign he’s carrying. And I’m not going to be particularly convinced of his argument that job security is his “right.”

[PALEA President] Gerry Rivera should have thought of how this would really play to the public, but he’s been so out of touch with reality all through this saga that it would have been a real surprise for him to get a clue now.

And therein lies the rub. For all its faults – and it has more than I can count – for all its history of bad relations with its labor unions, and whatever its real motives are, PAL has at least proceeded in line with the basic core goal of keeping its planes in the air and keeping people on the move. Yes, it does a terrible job at it, and there are much better alternatives for the consumer even in this limited air transport market. Nonetheless, the inescapable conclusion is that, however small the added-value PAL’s existence may actually be, it does, perhaps in spite of itself, provide a public service.

PALEA does not. PALEA provides a service for, at this point, roughly 300 malcontents out of about 2,600 people, the rest of whom, while understandably not exactly thrilled with the new arrangements and probably rightly concerned about their prospects in an uncertain job market, took what they could get out of an inevitable situation and moved on.

The President characterized the “labor action” on Tuesday as “economic sabotage” and for once he’s actually right about something. PALEA is conducting an assault on the Filipino people, and it’s actually a three-pronged attack. First, there was the incredible confusion and inconvenience caused by forcing PAL to ground on Tuesday. Many of the affected passengers were probably only inconvenienced – but does PALEA know how many may have missed being somewhere really important, and will suffer serious consequences as a result? Second, PALEA’s action damaged the image and reputation of the country. PAL is the only airline that carries the country’s name to other places (Air Philippines, which only has limited and usually code-shared service to Singapore and Hong Kong, doesn’t count), and while whatever ire an international traveler might feel when learning he can’t board his flight to Manila is of course probably going to be directed at the airline, he wouldn’t be feeling that ire for that particular reason if it were not for PALEA’s planking jackasses in NAIA.

And finally, PALEA’s antics harm the cause of every other labor organization in the country. The Philippines is not a good atmosphere for organized labor in the first place, which is unfortunate because at this stage of the country’s development many workers do need the protection a union can provide. By behaving in an irresponsible way and making the public the bearer of the consequences of their actions, PALEA risks hardening public opinion against unions in general, and as public opinion goes, so go the opinions of legislators who keep their jobs by reacting to it without looking into circumstances too deeply or objectively.

Economic sabotage? PALEA is lucky they’re in the Philippines. A country with less of a sense of humor might consider it something a lot worse.

print

About BenK

I write a column for The Manila Times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Most of the energy sector and the heads of several government agencies probably wish I didn't.

25 Comments on “The PALEA Assault on the Filipino People”

  1. palea is hurling the right demands on the wrong direction. My laymans take is that PAL has all the right to go where it can get better services. Even if they are permanent employees, PAL management is within their right to find ways to improve the bottom line. It is the governments duty to improve the lives of its citizen, not PAL.

    1. At one point PALEA claimed that its CBA with PAL prohibited the outsourcing move, but that was rejected by the DOLE and the courts. That was really the only legal or logical argument PALEA had to support its consistent demand that PAL not go through with it, and while we could be rightly suspicious of the objectivity of DOLE and the courts, the reason the argument was rejected was entirely sensible.

      If PALEA was arguing that the separation package was not fair, that would be a rational argument. I would personally disagree, I think it was fair, but I’d still say that was a justifiable position for them to take, and that others may agree with them. But they’ve not taken that position at any time, instead choosing to adopt the mendicant (and dare I say it, Communist-influenced) attitude that permanent employment under any circumstances is their right and that PAL having offered employment at one point is obliged to never alter that arrangement, even if that means the airline destroys itself in the process.

      PALEA seems to have forgotten that if there are no customers, there is no reason for PALEA to exist.

    1. And so? Is that enough reason to celebrate yet? Not yet Noynoy, not yet… As if to paraphrase the poem Like The Molave. He still has to get his act straight. Ratings doesn’t necessarily translate into the uplifting of standard of living in our country. So he better keep an eye on the ball, or his administration will go straight down the drain.

      1. May tiwala ang ating taumbayan kay Tito Noy. And he is uplifting the standards of every Filipino because they are satisfied with his leadership

      1. Hoy unggoy, kung bias yan, matagal na yang wala sa sirkulasyon. Tgnan mo ang mga cronies dati ni Marcos,sila ngay0n ang nawala na kasi sila ang t0t0oNg biased n0oN

    2. Popularity ratings are not part of the equations used to calculate GDP, poverty rates, literacy rates, income inequality, or any other thing that objectively describes the health of the nation.

      1. Ating matatandaan na bago bumaba sa pwesto si Gloria ay marami syang ninakaw. Eto ang minana natin at nireresolba ng admin ni Tito Noy ngayon.

    3. “May tiwala ang ating taumbayan kay Tito Noy. And he is uplifting the standards of every Filipino because they are satisfied with his leadership”

      ^Sarcasm old boy? Now, not unless you’re filthy rich and living the sweet life I’d let you off the hook for uttering that. Parang di ka ata nakikinig ng balita p’re. Kaninong mga buhay ba yang tinutukoy mo na na-improve sa kaliwa’t-kanang pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, tubig, kuryente, toll at LRT/MRT fees? Kay gaan-gaan ata ng buhay mo, saang parte ka ba ng Pilipinas nakatira? Baka naman pwedeng makisilong sa lungga mo.

      Uplifting you say? Maybe if his administration can do something about decreasing the price of generated electricity in our country so we can enjoy cheaper bills and have a more productive session over the net then I’d be more inclined to believe you, but no. Apparently, things couldn’t be more on the contrary as to what you’re preaching. You do prove a point. Figure that one out yet my good man? If you can’t, then you’re a hopeless case…

  2. It’s the same problem, with the automotive industries and other manufacturing industries. They outsource jobs, to increase profits. They replace Human Labors with Robots. Unfortunately, labor unions are getting out of date.
    One industrialist told me that someday Robots and Humanoids will replace all human labor…I have seen the Robots and Humanoids Prototypes in laboratories…it’s becoming a reality.
    PAL is in trouble. It’s management must adjust to the hard economic times. You cannot make profit by shelving off realities. We are in economic hardship times. I cannot say anything to the Labor Union. Except, I sympathize with their situations…

  3. @Vincenzong Unngoy:

    1. Marcos was a crook because he was pointed as one by media pundits but let’s not go after Cory for her crookery while in office and what her family has done as well because she is well loved by autists like you an everyone else because she bore the ‘Aquino’ name. Even kids during her rule are also shouting ‘Cory Kurakot!’ Oh, and the Mendiola Massacre? Because only fools are gullible enough to believe Aquino magic and hype, much like everyone with a last name has a label to them.

    2. Many are satisfied on ABNoy’s leadership? Only zombies like you are satisfied while the enlightened ones like ourselves are not. It’s still a long way to go.

    3. Maraming ninakaw si Gloria? Maybe but meh. Actually, 56 years of corruption surrounding the Aquino family and their beloved Hacienda Luisita is much more worse than Gloria’s 9 years. Even the corruption during Cory’s administration was well documented by Doy Laurel himself

    Hindi mo lang alam ang lahat kasi panay Yellow Propaganda ka. Wala na bang iba? Honestly, you’re just a brainwashed TROLL. 😛

    1. The Aquinos and their bunch of relatives, and cahoots are silent plunderers. The Lopez Media, their cahoots, sanitizes the information they feed to you; so that they appear as sanitized trash…

  4. Actually this Yellowtard Clown is here, as a Diversion Tactic. Maybe formulated by Ricky Carandang, to destroy the Sense of Discussions in any Blogsites (against the Aquino) regime, by sensible people. You can see how desperate the Yellow Horde Nazi KALIBAPI propagandists are…

  5. I came across this article while I was doing a research for my PAL-PALEA dispute paper. I was able to interview PALEA members today and was enlightened by why they did the strike. I may not be sure what really took place or who’s really right in this issue but my interviewee’s parting words keep resounding in my head..

    “Kelan ba inapi o inabuso ng manggagawa ang kapitalista?”

    No arguments intended. Just sharing 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.