MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE)- Philippine Airlines (PAL) is threatening to file administrative and criminal charges against its ground employees who participated in an "illegal strike" that forced the airline to cancel nearly a hundred flights, Tuesday.
In a press conference, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said some 14,000 passengers were affected by the sudden cancellation of the flights Tuesday morning. This includes 8,500 passengers on domestic flights and 5,500 on international flights.
“This morning, about 300 PAL ground workers on duty at the airport suddenly refused to perform their official functions in the ramp, check-in counters and catering areas. Our lawyers are preparing the appropriate charges to be filed against these erring workers,” Bautista said.
Members of the Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA) staged a walkout around 7 a.m. over the implementation of the airline's outsourcing plan on October 1. The plan, which involves the outsourcing of its catering, call center and ground services, will affect 2,600 PAL employees.
While operations at NAIA Terminal 2 grounded to a halt, PAL flights arriving from Seoul (PR 467) and Tokyo (PR 431) were transferred to NAIA Terminal 1 in coordination with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).
Bautista said this "may be one of the worst" strikes faced by the company, since the one staged also by PALEA in 1998.
"It is an illegal strike. We consider it a slowdown, which is tantamount to a strike because they caused the paralyzation of our operations," he said.
PAL lawyers are studying administrative and criminal charges to be filed against the striking employees.
“Our lawyers are studying all legal options, including the filing of administrative, civil and criminal charges against the illegal strikers. They are risking their retirement pay and other benefits because of their illegal actions," Bautista said.
"There is a RA 9497 which was enacted in 2008 which said that persons who cause disruption in the airport will be criminally liable...This can be one of the criminal cases we may file. They can be imprisoned from 3-5 years and fined from P50,000 to 500,000," he added.
The PAL president said the airline can immediately go back to normal operations, once the protesters have been dispersed. PAL administrative staff were ready to take over, but the management decided to defer deployment to prevent altercation between its ground workers and management volunteers.
"If papayag ang mga striking employees na mag leave na lang sila and our administrative employees and contracted service providers will man the flights and counters, we should normalize immediately," he said.
PAL assured flights will resume at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, PAL issued a memo to all employees affected by the outsourcing, stating that they will be considered "official off-duty" with pay until September 30. This means the affected employees no longer need to report to work, but will still get their salary.
However, PALEA members insisted they will not back down until their demands for job security are met.
"PALEA has decided to act now instead of waiting for the onslaught of the outsourcing typhoon on Friday. This is the mother of all protests against layoff and contractualization. Nobody will go home and we will not back down until our demand for job security is met," said Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa.
"We call on PAL to begin talks for a settlement to the labor dispute. PALEA demands a stop to the outsourcing plan. We call for the opening of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In the CBA negotiations, we can discuss measures to make PAL viable except outsourcing," Rivera added.