More than 1000 Philippine Airlines (PAL) ground staff from the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) staged a torch-lit rally on April 1 between terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The protest was supported by several big labour federations. The union representing flight attendants has also pledged solidarity with PALEA.
When police blocked the march, workers blocked a major road for several hours. This disrupted access to the airport and lead to flights being cancelled or delayed.
The workers were protesting the plan by PAL to replace permanent jobs with “contract labour”. Under the plan, 2600 PAL workers are threatened with being laid off, and will have to try to get their jobs back with one of three service companies that the airline intends outsourcing its ground operations to.
PALEA president Gerry Rivera described the protest as a dress rehearsal for a campaign of strikes. PALEA members voted to strike a week earlier.
However, the same evening that workers staged their protest, Philippines labour secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued an order referring the dispute to compulsory mediation. This makes any strike illegal.
A strike planned to start on April 2 did not go ahead, but Rivera warned: “The order has not stopped a strike at PAL, it has merely postponed it to a date that PAL and the government cannot now know in advance.”
PALEA is also taking the Philippines government to the International Labour Organisation.