Labor chief bars strike at PAL

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2010 02:21 PM | Updated as of Nov 03 2010 11:41 PM

Baldoz assumes jurisdiction over PAL-FASAP dispute

MANILA, Philippines - The government has assumed jurisdiction over the dispute between Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its cabin crew union after last-ditch efforts to resolve the row failed.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the move prevents the Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philippines (FASAP) from pushing through with a planned strike to paralyze the operations of the local carrier.

"Na-exhaust naman talaga ang all avenues na mahanap ang kasunduan. Since hindi naman naganap 'yon, ang susunod na proseso ay i-arbitrate ang kaso at dapat namang masolusyonan," she told radio dzMM.

"Itinatalaga ng batas na 'pag nag-assume ang Secretary of Labor sa isang national interest case, ang ibig sabihin na 'pag nagkaroon ng pagaaklas ito po ay pwedeng ma-declare na illegal," she added.

The 1,600-strong FASAP had warned it would go on strike by the end of October if PAL still took a hardline stance and ignored the group's demands in their 5th conciliation meeting held Tuesday.

Talks collapsed as the camps failed to agree on 3 issues: the economic package (wage increase and rice allowance), gender discrimination (maternity leaves), and retirement age.

PAL stood firm on its previous offer that included a one-time economic package worth P105 million and adjustment in the retirement age from 40 to 45 years old.

But FASAP wanted a retirement age of 60 and a P250-million economic package.

"PAL failed to address the discrimination versus flight attendants and has passed on its responsibility to the DOLE secretary. As the DOLE has assumed jurisdiction and prevented FASAP to exercise its lawful right to go on strike, we are left with no choice but to respect the authority of Secretary Baldoz," the group said in a statement.

Baldoz said she has given PAL and FASAP 10 days to submit their respective position papers on the labor dispute.

She said that if both camps will not request to extend the deadline for additional pleadings, she may come up with a ruling on the row in 30 days.

"We hope she (Baldoz) will immediately resolve the dispute and address the discrimination in PAL," added FASAP.

Earlier, President Aquino said he would push for the adoption of the open skies policy if a strike at the flag carrier occurred.

An open skies policy would deregulate air traffic in the country and allow foreign airlines to take PAL's flight schedules and service the Manila route.

FASAP's planned strike is the latest in a string of labor problems to hit PAL.

In August, 25 pilots and first officers on the airline's short-haul aircraft suddenly quit for higher paying jobs abroad, forcing the abrupt cancellation of several flights.