The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) president Gerry Rivera testified at Washington DC at dawn last Wednesday (noon January 24 EST) on the suppression of labor rights by the Philippine government. Rivera faced-off with government officials led by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz at the hearing held by the US Trade Representative (USTR).
“PALEA presents a significant case in reviewing whether or not the Philippines have taken or taking steps to afford workers their internationally recognized rights. We submit that Philippine government has abused its power to assume jurisdiction (AJ) of strikes thereby curtailing workers’ rights to freely organize and bargain collectively. PALEA was not allowed to strike on two crucial occasions to protest the mass termination of some 2,600 workers and yet Philippine Airlines (PAL) was permitted to proceed with the layoff despite a pending case at the Court of Appeals,” Rivera argued before the USTR subcommittee on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
This is not the first time that the government, specifically Sec. Baldoz, had to face inquiries abroad on the handling of the PAL-PALEA labor row on outsourcing and contractualization. Last December 7, Baldoz was questioned by a delegate to the International Labor Organization regional meeting in Kyoto, Japan on PALEA’s protest.
Aside from Rivera, Josua Mata of the Alliance of Progressive Labor andof the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) also spoke before the hearing to corroborate PALEA’s testimony and paint the “big picture” on the state of labor rights. On the government side, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, Labor Undersecretary Rebecca Chato and other Philippine embassy officials accompanied Baldoz.
At stake at the hearing are trade benefits accorded by the United States government to countries which it deems respects core labor rights and standards. The GSP subcommittee which held the hearing for the “review of country practices” includes representatives of the USTR, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Department of State and Department of Treasury. The Philippines was put under scrutiny based on the petition filed by the ILRF, a DC-based advocacy organization.
Rivera also met with the top union officials of the AFL-CIO and its constituent organizations to solicit support for its fight against contractualization and boycott campaign. Among those which expressed concern and solidarity was the Association of Flight Attendants which will include PALEA’s plight in its upcoming “Occufly” protest in California on February. US-based unions and Fil-Am groups are spearheading boycott campaigns in the West Coast cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Vancouver where PAL has its most profitable flights.
Rivera’s testimony came on the heels of renewed protests by PALEA yesterday. Members of PALEA together with Partido ng Manggagawa held a motorcade from the protest camp to PAL’s offices at the airport, PNB Building in Macapagal Ave. and Allied Bank Building in Ayala.