[Reflection] The right to strike


The PALEA members conduct a “sit-down protest” affecting almost all of the flights of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and 14,000 passengers. Photo from dzrhnewspublic.blogspot.com

Last Sept. 27, the load controllers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 walked out of their posts and airport personnel at the check-in counters vacated their work stations.

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) in their official statement announced that they were holding a peaceful sit-down protest to decry the PAL management’s plan to outsource and imminently displacement more than 2,500 regular PAL workers.

This compelled the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management to suspend all airport operations and cancel 172 inbound and outbound flights. Report said that at least 14,000 passengers were stranded in the airport while typhoon Pedring hit Manila heavily.

While the PALEA strike has drawn mixed reactions from the public, but what is really worrisome is the reaction of President Benigno Aquino III by calling it an economic sabotage. Although, PNoy seemed to backtrack when the Department of Labor and Employment upheld the action as legal, but his initial reaction has in effect pronounced the government’s anti-labor position.

It conveyed a ricocheting statement that strikes and other concerted labor activities aimed at airing legitimate workers’ demands and grievances are now regarded as economic terrorism and therefore should be met with violent force and repression.

While the PALEA strike might have caused an economic disturbance particularly in the general operation of the air transport industry but it does not reduce the fact that they have legitimate reason to do so.

Although labor outsourcing is nothing new, it is in fact allowed by labor law.  It is usually justified in the face of impending crisis. Most business establishments may find it logical and necessary to adopt this flexibility measure to cope with the fluctuations in the demand for their products and to reduce their production cost by maintaining lean regular work force.

But the question that should therefore be addressed is how to strike a balance between maintaining the companies’ profit and protection of employees. Business survival will be meaningless if the end result will be more unemployment.

This is what Pnoy should first think about before talking.

His responsibility is above all for the interest of the people including the poor workers and not for one company alone much less for the interest of a very rich businessman like Lucio Tan.

With more than10 million Filipino workers unemployed and underemployed and the threat of the continuing displacement and the gradual return of OFWs due to the economic recession in theUnited Statesand other parts of the world and political instability in the Middle East, can this country afford to leave more workers out of jobs?

The right to strike is a basic labor right that should be exercise whenever the security and dignity of workers are threatened.

But most importantly, it is also our right to hold any government responsible not only for allowing such right to be violated but more so for serving the interest of the few. If this is what PNoy meant of “matuwid na daan” then let’s all make this road rough and wry for his administration by not only supporting the PALEA strike but by raising this action to a political cause.

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