Labor groups slam SC turnaround on flight attendants’ case vs PAL

Anakpawis Party Rep. Rafael Mariano said the SC’s reversal of its ruling on the FASAP case completes the “triple whammy of attack'” against PAL pilots, cabin crew and airport workers by various courts, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Malacañang.

by INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The Supreme Court has come up with another anti-labor ruling, one in an already long list.

This is the allegation of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) after the Supreme Court announced the reversal of its earlier ruling regarding the illegal retrenchment case filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) against the country’s flagship carrier, Philippine Airlines.

In a full court decision dated October 4, the SC recalled a final entry judgment dated September 7 that already declared the retrenchment of the cabin crew personnel in 1998 as illegal. FASAP was established in 1960, its membership is composed of the inflight safety professionals — the flight attendants and stewards of PAL.

Courage president Ferdinand Gaite said that the SC’s decision to reverse its previous ruling was unjust and suspicious.

“This case has already been decided upon three times in the past, all in favor of the workers. It’s highly suspicious that after receiving a letter from PAL counsel Estelito Mendoza, the High Court reversed its previous decisions. The High Court has an obvious bias toward the interests of big businessmen, and this bias is at the expense of 1,400 employees who have been denied justice for more than a decade. Given the recent uproar over the dismissal of 2,600 PAL workers and the outsourcing of their jobs, the Supreme Court’s reversal sets a bleak tone for all workers and employees,” he said.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno also protested against the decision of the Supreme Court, saying that the institution has made a mockery of the justice system in the service of PAL owner and tycoon Lucio Tan.

“It’s sickening how the SC took swift action to reverse a ruling favorable to PAL’s flight attendants on the basis of a lawyers’ letter, and not even a pleading,” said , KMU chairman Elmer Labog. “This strengthens the already prevalent belief that the high tribunal deliberately favors big capitalists like Tan against Filipino workers. People cannot help but wonder about how much Tan paid for this turnaround?”

Decision a travesty of justice

FASAP President Bob Anduiza said their union was “shocked” by the decision and that it was a ” travesty of justice.”

In an en banc decision dated October 4, 2011 the Supreme Court recalled the September 7, 2011 final entry of judgment on G.R. No. 178083 (“FASAP vs. PAL, Patria Chong and Court of Appeals, Respondents”) that already declared as illegal the retrenchment of PAL flight attendants cabin crew in 1998. Fasap filed the case against the PAL management.

In July 22, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of FASAP declaring illegal the retrenchment of 1,400 flight attendants. On August 20, 2008, PAL filed a motion for reconsideration. PAL lawyer Estelito Mendoza also entered as collaborating counsel for PAL.

On October 2, 2009, the High Court ruled again in favour of the flight attendants and said that the ruling was final and that no other pleadings will be entertained. By January 2, 2011, however, the PAL still refused to respect the SC decision and filed a second motion for reconsideration. Second motions for reconsiderations are considered as “prohibited pleadings.” Still, the SC entertained the motion.

On September 27, 2011, the Supreme Court resolved to deny PAL’s second motion for reconsideration and ruled with finality, in favor of FASAP. The decision was welcomed and hailed by Fasap.

All of the foregoing make the recent SC decision all the more shocking to the employees and their supporters.”

“The lives of the flight attendants were ruined after they were unjustly and illegally thrown out of their jobs. Some lost their homes, some of their children had to stop attending school, and personal relationships were also affected as the trauma of losing one’s employment took a toll on their lives. Their pain and suffering is immeasurable. Many have also died while the case was being heard.“Regardless of the mistake on procedure, it should not have changed the position on the merits,” Anduiza said.

“How can a mere letter from Mendoza cause a recall of such a monumental SC decision involving the lives of 1,400 people? What compelling reason justified the Supreme Court to recall it?” He went on to say that the SC bent the law when it recalled its previous judgment.

Under Article 8, Section 14 of the Philippine Constitution, it is stated that the SC cannot render any decision without expressing clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.

“But the en banc SC resolution recalling its previous decision did not bother to say the reason for the recall even as the same affects the substantive rights and lives of 1,400 illegally retrenched workers and their families. On the other hand, SC Spokesperson Midas Marquez merely cited Internal rules of the high court and technicalities, based on Atty. Mendoza letters,” Arquiza said.

“Did the ‘honorable’ men and women in robes take in consideration the welfare of PAL employees? Or did they weigh in favour of the interest of the big and rich businessmen? We cannot help but describe this as a naked power play, where the victims are again the lowly workers. It is decisions like this that tarnish the image of the Supreme Court and the country.”

In its recent reversal of the decision, the SC said it is merely correcting a “misapplication of its rules” after it took cognizance of the letter of PAL legal counsel o Mendoza, who said it should have been the SC’s third division that decided on the matter and not the second division.

Anduiza said in an interview with media that the SC’s decision sends a shameful message that in the Philippines, “workers do not stand a chance against the rich and influential businessmen.”

A victory against PAL, against gender and age discrimination

Earlier in April, the Fasap won its case in the DOLE as it demanded age and gender equality for flight attendants as against the PAL management’s policies.

Last April 1, 2011, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz ruled to affirm her previous decision favoring FASAP in its collective bargaining agreement dispute with PAL. Baldoz also directed PAL to reinstate the flight pursers who were retired during the pendency of this case.

The union said the decision is a milestone achievement. “It will benefit not just its female members, it will also uplift the image of flight attendants as dignified safety professionals. The struggle to address age and gender discrimination in PAL has been a life long battle for FASAP, and this decision helps greatly to correct the injustice against the female flight attendants.”

Many women’s groups and advocates such as Gabriela, the Center for Women’s Research and Gabriela Women’s Party supported the Fasap in the case.

The DOLE said PAL should grant salary increases to FASAP members. The PAL was also ordered to raise the compulsory retirement age to 60 years old and make improvements on pregnancy and maternity benefits. Besides this, PAL was also ordered to grant a monthly P1,800 ($41) rice allowance to FASAP members for the period covering 16 July 2007 to 15 July 2010.

All in all, PAL was ordered to credit two pregnancy leaves, for a maximum of seven months for each leave, in computing entitlement to the usual company benefits such as retirement benefits, trip passes, 13th month pay, Christmas bonus, and service awards.

High Court is anti-labor

The victory against PAL, however, has been counter-balanced by the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.

Anakpawis Party-List Rep. Rafael Mariano said the SC violated its mandate to uphold justice.

“Whatever happened to the adage ‘those who have less in life should have more in law’?,” he said. He went to say that the SC is fast becoming the “High Court of Injustice” under the Aquino administration with the series of anti-people rulings it issued on high profile cases of national concern. Mariano said various court rulings on separate labor cases against PAL clearly favored the management and PAL owner Tan.

Previous to this case, the SC in a decision on June 2011 junked the petition for motion for reconsideration by the Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines (ALPAP) on the SC’s 2002 ruling on the illegal dismissal case filed by PAL pilots against the PAL management following the a labor strike in June 5, 1998 over unfair labor practices.

Only last September, the Court of Appeals (CA) gave the go-signal for PAL to pursue a P730 million ($16.9 million) damage suit against ALPAP and its former officers over the 1998 strike that had forced the flag carrier to temporarily close shop.

Mariano said the SC’s reversal of its ruling on the FASAP case completes the “triple whammy of attack'” against PAL pilots, cabin crew and airport workers by various courts, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Malacañang.

More than 2,600 PAL ground employees were retrenched this month after President Aquino authorized the spin-off/outsourcing program in the country’s premier flag-carrier.

“These anti-worker rulings practically conveys the message that nobody wins against Lucio Tan. Tan is the second richest Filipino and he can a put a price tag on justice and corrupt the entire judiciary,” Mariano said.

Courage’s Gaite in the meantime laid more blame at the doors of Malacañang, saying that the Aquino administration failed to exhaust all possible measures to ensure the protection and welfare of PAL employees and workers.

“The Aquino administration’s inaction and apathy over the unresolved issues at PAL highlights its anti-labor character. Given the constantly rising costs of basic commodities and services and the paltry wages workers both in the private and public sectors receive, the issue of job security and tenure is very important. It’s appalling to see how this administration is bent on serving as an apologist and defendersof big businessmen. It’s defending exploiters instead of prioritizing the needs and interests of the Filipino people who have long been living in poverty and destitution,” Gaite concluded. ()

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