PAL says strikers backed down


Posted at Sep 27 2011 07:30 PM | Updated as of Sep 28 2011 08:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Airlines (PAL) was set to resume flights Tuesday night after police and security personnel cleared the Manila airport of striking workers.

Some 2,600 ground staff of the airline -- who are members of the labor union PAL Employees' Association (PALEA) -- staged a wildcat strike to protest a plan to outsource their jobs.

PAL said in a statement that the workers were out of their stations at 5:30 p.m., allowing the airline to start checking in international and domestic passengers.

PAL cancelled more than 100 international and domestic flights in the morning because of the work stoppage, stranding 14,000 people.

According to PAL president Jaime Bautista, other qualified workers were prepared to replace the PALEA members, but could not take their posts because the striking employees didn't want to leave their work areas.

Bautista said the strike was illegal and warned that the participating workers could lose their retirement benefits and face criminal action.

"They're in violation of Republic Act 9497, they're liable for disrupting airport operations."

PALEA members went on strike to protest the implementation of the airline's outsourcing program on October 1. PAL had sent termination notices to its ground crew last month, saying it needed to trim its workforce to save on operating costs.

After Tuesday's strike, Bautista wants PALEA workers to go on paid leave until their contracts expire so PAL could implement its outsourcing to see to it that flights will be manned and operated.

Bautista conceded the strike was a public relations disaster for his company, which has had to watch rival Cebu Pacific overtake it recently as the country's number one airline in terms of passenger numbers.

"Definitely, it will affect the brand. It will take some time again for us to regain the support of the riding public," he said.

At the Manila airport, passengers were left bewildered and angry.

"I'm going to attend a wedding so I will miss the wedding," said Kanane Duncan, a woman from Botswana who lives in Manila and was on her way to the central city of Cebu. - With reports from Chiara Zambrano, and AFP