Message-ID: <>
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 12:41:11 +0800
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: Steve Graw <smg7@CORNELL.EDU>
Organization: Development Sociology, Cornell University
Subject: FWD: PH: Progress in Phil Air Lines strike

PAL, strikers close to agreement

By Deogracias E. Ramos and Lynda T. Jumilla, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 July 1998

THE MANAGEMENT of Philippine Airlines yesterday appeared close to ending a four-day-old strike by its ground staff personnel following discussions of a voluntary retirement scheme that would be made available to PAL employees.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Manolo Aquino, PAL executive vice president for administration and services, said details of the scheme were being worked out by management and the PAL Employees Association (Palea).

It's a new proposal, so we still have to work out the details. But we feel that we can end this (strike) now since it appears to be acceptable to everybody, he said.

President Estrada himself announced a breakthrough in conciliation talks between the unions and PAL management.

He said in a telephone interview yesterday that the crippling labor dispute that has grounded the flag carrier would end hopefully in the next three to four days as a result of this breakthrough.

Mr. Estrada declined to reveal the details of the looming compromise on the PAL dispute. He merely said he learned of it during an emergency meeting with PAL management yesterday afternoon.

I'm working on this (PAL dispute) because this affects the whole country, he said. Hotel employees have been retrenched as well because of this.

Aquino said management would like to come to an agreement with the union because the strike had resulted in huge losses in ticket sales, with some 50 percent of PAL aircraft's seating capacity not being utilized.

The two parties conducted marathon negotiations Friday night to try and come to an agreement. The scheme was the latest, and possibly the last, among the proposals that were given since the strike began.

Based on the draft agreement, PAL will first identify the number of ground staff it needs following its decision to downsize its operations.

Palea members would then be asked to volunteer to retire in exchange for an incentive package, which includes free trips for the employee's immediate family.

Under the existing collective bargaining agreement, a Palea member would be entitled only to a lifetime trip package if he or she serves for a period of at least 20 years with PAL.

Aquino said that if no employees avail themselves of the proposed scheme within a 30-day period, PAL management would be allowed to exercise the retrenchment option based on a last in, first out setup.

Palea president Alex Barrientos said the incentive package was just one of the issues that was holding the union back from signing an agreement with management.

Barrientos said Palea was also studying the number of people PAL planned to lay off, as those earlier terminated would still be considered part of the company.

He said Palea would also pursue in discussions the number of employees that management would like to have in every department, and the justification for such figures.

When the discussions are over, there will be no more strike, and no more retaliatory actions against each other. It's like a memorandum of agreement, but the specifics still have to be threshed out, Barrientos said in Filipino.

Roberto Anduiza, president of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines, another PAL union, said a number of employees had wanted out of the company since the airline pilots went on strike.

Anduiza said some employees had expressed interest to seek employment elsewhere or get an early retirement package, rather than continue working for PAL.

At present, PAL's financial obligations have reached $2 billion, an amount largely used to finance an ambitious refleeting program.

Earlier, the President assured PAL's disgruntled unions that he would not necessarily side with the airline's majority owner, Lucio Tan, who reportedly contributed to his campaign.

However, he also said he would not force Tan to give in to the workers' demands if the businessman could not afford it.