The ground crew — Philippine Airlines (Part 1)

by Ricardo Sia

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the primary airport of the Philippines that handles an estimated 38 million passengers annually.

And it is a hub for major airlines. One of which, is the Philippine Airlines, the flag carrier of the country and is the first and oldest airline in Asia founded in 1941.

With its 63 aircraft, PAL serves 31 domestic flights and 41 overseas destinations in Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Oceana, North America and Europe.


PAL is considered one of the largest corporation in the country in terms of revenue that is owned by business tycoon Lucio Tan through its parent company, the PAL Holdings Inc.

In 2015, PAL Holdings reported its profits for the first half to 58 billion pesos or $126 million dollars, that is tenfold of the 12.8 million dollars of the same period of 2014.

At the heart of its tremendous success and profits for over 75 years, PAL continues to fly because of the people behind it.

Shrouded by the day to day grinding and bustling environment.

Buried within those smiles, there exists a conflict so profound and visceral enduring for already six years.

Joaquin Garcia was known by his friend as Jake has been in PAL for more than 20 years until that ill-fated LOCKOUT.

When the 600 Philippine Airlines Employees Association or PALEA Union Members were terminated due to outsourcing.

Joaquin Garcia: “That is my most hurting experience because I did nothing wrong while working at PAL.  I have spent almost half of my younger life in service of PAL… that is why it pains me a lot to be terminated without committing anything wrong. It would have been okay if I violated something, but to fire me even if I am not at fault… I could hardly sleep after that. I was 57 years old when they fired me, and at that time, the law against age discrimination is not yet in place. I AM A REGULAR EMPLOYEE and THEY WILL REVERT ME TO CONTRACTUAL STATUS? BACK TO WHERE I BEGUN?  I started as agency worker on May, 16 1980 then PAL made me a regular employee on November 29, 1989. Now what?  Am I to become an agency worker again? Don’t we have laws that prohibit this kind of thing?”

Froilan Tancinco:  “All of us were surprised when we found out that we were no longer employees.  Passwords and access to computers were changed and withheld from us.  And the President himself accused us of economic sabotage… can you believe that?  But what is really saddening is the fact that the media were there when it happened, with all the oppression and assaults to the workers, yet nothing was ever reported.”

Like in any conflict where the head of the family is on the frontline. The most problematic for the PALEA Union members and officers… how it affected their loved ones.

Froilan Tancinco: “It was really heartbreaking for a leader knowing that your family depends on you. Our families were not ready for this. What are you going to do when one day you woke up and unceremoniously fired? Will you accept their paltry offer? Is this humane?…. Our first Christmas in the picket line is singular and inconceivable, the fact that there is no food on the table when you get home.”

Joaquin Garcia: “A score of our members in the Union died in the picket line.  Perhaps they might still be alive if they were not terminated. Why? When we were still working in PAL, you’ll just have to go to the clinic when you feel something and you’ll be attended to. Now what? How can we have proper check-up when we do not even have a single penny to buy candies? So you tell me… This is distressing.”

Eugene Soriano: “We call on to all our members to continue fighting against out-sourcing in PAL. This is what we stand for.  Therefore comrades, let us all unite and show the world that PALEAN does not cower from battle. The battle of PALEA is everybody’s battle.” CPM

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