Protect Laborers!  No to Contractualization!

Session 4
3rd Sunday of Lent
March 11, 2012
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:13-25

“If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” – Mark 34

Integration:

Every Christian who wants to follow Christ is expected to obey God’s commandment of love. The commandment of love requires denial of oneself or detachment from earthly things. Denial of oneself means giving up personal interest for the sake of the greater good. Itis an essential and moral requirement for discipleship.

To deny one self is to give up one’s comfort in life and to reach out to others who are in need . Hence, denial of oneself becomes meaningful when it is done for the common good. By doing it, one will be known as a true Christian.

Supporting a just struggle or fighting for the rights of others is a form of denial of one’s comfort for common good. It challenges us to go out of our comfort zones and be in solidarity with the victims of injustices. It demands our conviction, commitment and time to accompany the victims to fight for their human dignity and rights.

Objectives

1)      To encourage the participants to repent and renew themselves according to the tenets of the Gospel; and

2)      To provide opportunity among the participants to concretely practice the value of denying of one’s comfort. To challenge the participants to support the workers in their issues and struggle for security of tenure;and against contractualizationof labor.

Suggested Activity:

Gallery of Saints and Heroes (St. Francis ofAssisi, St. Theresa of Avila, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Melchora Aquino, etc.)

Guide Questions:

 

  1. Why these people are known up to now?
  2. What are the traits and values they have exemplified?
  3. Can you identify their contributions to our country/faith?
  4. Do you find their life worth emulating? How?

 

Deepening

Situationer:

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) is the accredited labor union ofthe flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL). It is composed of 3,700 PAL employees, mainly from the ground crew and services. In October 29, 2010, after a series of disputes, interventions and motions for reconsideration, the Department of Labor and Employment ruled in favour of the PAL management which was later affirmed by the Office of the President on August 11, 2011.

The dispute between PALEA and PAL management dates back from 1998 when PAL retrenched 5,000 of its 8,000 employees. The retrenchment at that time seemed acceptable as the country was in the midst of the Asian Financial Crisis. Remaining PALEA members agreed to help pull PAL out of fiscal insolvency by assenting to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) moratorium for 10 years. However, the moratorium was extended for two more years.

In 2010, PAL, invoking “management prerogative” announced its outsourcing plan to lay off 2,600 of its employees from catering, call centers and ground services. The management deems the plan necessary for the company’s survival. The management claimed a total loss of US$312 million in 2008 and 2009. Though it posted modest profits of US$72.5 million in 2010,it incurred losses of US$10.6 million for the first quarter of 2011 due to various factors.

PALEA however refuted management’s claim and instead submitted a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the first time since the moratorium was imposed in 1998. PALEA is not only discrediting PAL’s claim, it is also fighting PAL’s outsourcing scheme that sought to downgrade its regular employees into contractual, without security of tenure.

In July 21, 2011, an examination of PAL’s Annual and Consolidated Financial Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the fiscal period that ended in March 31, 2011 showed a total comprehensive income of US$ 72.5 million, a significant turnaround from the previous fiscal year’s total comprehensive loss of US$14.4 million.

Ironically, PAL’s decision to outsource over 2,600 regular employees was supported by no other than the Office of the President. The President who calls for workers’ protection and jobs generation allows termination of regular and unionized workers. The decision is a blatant disregard of workers’ rights.

The outsourcing plan is supposed to take effect on October 1, 2011. But management began firing employees at least a week before the scheduled termination and replaced them with unqualified workers. In September 27, PALEA workers were locked out of the operating system that oversees overall airline operations and were forcibly evicted by PAL security force from their work stations.

The trend of outsourcing or contractualization violates workers’ rights and makes workers vulnerable to arbitrary termination. If the most stable air carrier company can regulates workers to contractualization,  who can stop other smaller companies from doing the same? DOLE’s and OP’s approval to “management prerogative” can set dangerous precedent to labor relations.  Hence, the fight of PALEA against outsourcing and contractualization is the fight for right and dignity of every Filipino worker.“Ang Laban ng PALEA ay LabanngLahat”.

Reflection:

The life of a true disciple of Christ or a true Christian is marked by prayer and worship, by act of service and charity, and by witnessing one’s life in justice and peace.  Christ teaches us to serve and not to be served. And he warns us that on judgement day “whatever you do for one of my least brethren, you do it unto me” (Mathew 25, 40).

We should know Christ’s mission, which He quoted from the book of the prophet Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, Recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favour from the Lord.” (Luke 4, 18 – 19). Christ came to lead us the way to attend to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged of society.

Christ’s invitation to follow him by denying oneself and carrying up the cross should always be seen in the context of serving the least of our brethren, especially the victims of injustice. The very substance of denying oneself and carrying up the cross is to give or share ourselves to others for the common good.

The victims of injustice perhaps, are not our priorities, they are not known to us, and we fear to help them because they are against powerful people. And this is exactly the challenge of Jesus to us: to deny ourselves, and not be afraid in taking up our cross and followingHim in giving life/helping those who need us.

Many of the PALEA members hold on to their principle by refusing to be enticed with payoffs by PAL management.  They collectively stand up for the union and fight for their rights.

Analyzing this labor dispute it gives us insight that PAL has no valid cause to terminate their regular employees to whom it owes its business success.  It has reported an expansion of aircraft fleet in the past years. Its financial statement shows that they are not in a precarious financial situation because they are earning a huge profit for the past three years. The amount could easily cover the costs of PALEA’s collective bargaining proposal for 2008-2013. The company just wants to keep the profit for itself and not share it with its workers.

PAL’s outsourcing plan is a height of injustice and economic deprivation. It violates PAL and PALEA’s collective bargaining agreement and the rights of union. It also curtails the individual rights of PALEA members to security of tenure and decent employment. Consequently, it places PALEA members’ families to uncertain future.

The retrenchment of employees and outsourcing of regular posts amidst astrongfinancial condition is an outright disregard in the prevailing laws of the land. The exercise of “management prerogative”, with the approval of the DOLE and concurrence of the Office of the President, only reveals the real intention to dismantle the union and curtail its collective bargaining powers are the real intensions of the outsourcing plan in order to accumulate more profits..  PAL and this government violate a constitutional provision guaranteeing workers’ right to self-organization, collective bargaining and security of tenure.

The PALEA members waived their demand for wage hike when they agreed to CBA moratorium for more than 10 years to help the company survive the financial crisis.   PAL, before the 27 September 2011 strike, has already attained financial sustainability and was in fact geared towards the expansion of a multi-billion industry.

Our faith demands us to do what is right and fight evil. Perhaps, we have the tendency to be uninterested on PAL and PALEA labor dispute but we have the duty and responsibility to work for truth and justice, to demand for just and equitable resolution of labor dispute. As Christians, we should proclaim the Catholic Social Teachings of the Church: labor’s primacy over capital – people over profit; Work stoppage and strikes are recognized by Catholic social teaching as legitimate in proper conditions and within limits. Workers should be assured the right to strike without being subjected to penalties for taking part in a strike (LaboremExercens)

 

Call to Action

As Christ’s disciples, we have primordial duty to defend life to its fullness.  Concretely, this can be lived by supporting and promoting the workers’rightsPALEA is already on its fourth month of strike. Its protest camps outside the international airports of the cities of Manila and Cebu remain strong and defiant. Threats, attacks, heavy rains and soaked sleeping mats fail to dampen their  spirits, so that  every day several hundred workers meet and man the pickets in shifts.

PALEA needs our moral and logistical support. They need our visits, solidarity messages and participation in their protest actions. Even the simplest expression of support will help sustain their morale to seek what is just and right and to remain at the picket lines.

We can also help by joining other trade unions and church groups who are in solidarity with PALEA and who have called for a boycott of Lucio Tan-owned PAL and Air Philippines, until management has heeded the workers’ demands for a return to their regular jobs.

We can sign the online petition athttp://action.laborrights.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=3183.

We could also donate or give financial assistance to sustain the protest camp, to help PALEA members who have been without jobs and wages for the last three months and attend meetings, prayers and Eucharistic celebrations with our families and children at the picket lines.

Support the calls of the workers against contractualization. Support the workers to have the right for their future. A decent and stable job is a right of every worker.

How you can make a donation:

  • Or send donations by bank to:

PALEA Strike Fund; Account Number 00008-057-00403-9
Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)
Quirino Ave., Baclaran, Paranaque City, Philippines.

 

For packages, send to PALEA 2014 J. Gabriel St., Baclaran, Paranaque City, Philippines 1702.

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