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Labor chief urges PAL, union to exercise sobriety

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Thursday called for sobriety and mutual respect from the contending parties following reports of a clash outside the Philippine Airlines’ Inflight Center in Pasay City on Wednesday where protesting PAL union members had set up camp.

“A proper observance of basic human rights, the rule of law and peace and order is necessary to ease the tension,” Baldoz said.

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She said the Pasay City regional court, which issued a status quo order on Wednesday, should expeditiously address the issue raised by the PAL Employees Union (Palea) “with respect to the jurisdiction of regular courts to issue injunctions in labor disputes.”

Palea on Thursday accused PAL of attempting to bust its picket but that union members were able to repulse the attempt to disperse the strikers on Wednesday afternoon.

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‘Lawsuit protest’

“We accuse the management of Philippine Airlines of using a sheriff and scores of hired goons to bust Palea’s peaceful and lawful protest,” said Palea president Gerry Rivera in a statement.

According to Rivera, Pasay City sheriff Virgilio Villar arrived at the Palea camp at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday accompanied by some 100 men in white T-shirts or undershirts and blue pants. Villar said he was there to implement a 72-hour temporary restraining order from Pasay City RTC Judge Edwin Ramizo, stopping the Palea from holding the demonstration in front of the IFC.

However, the union claimed the Ramizo TRO was no longer in effect as the case had been raffled off to another judge, Rosario Ragasa, who issued a status quo order at a hearing on Wednesday.

Illegal occupation

Palea has urged Ragasa to dismiss the case that PAL had filed against six of its members for illegal occupation of the perimeter of the IFC.

It said civil courts have no jurisdiction over cases involving or arising out of labor disputes, as provided for by the Labor Code. A decision on the case is expected at a hearing scheduled today.

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According to Rivera, Villar and the men with him began tearing down streamers in violation of the Ragasa order, but were repulsed by Palea members.

“The sheriff and his goons came back again at 6 p.m. and scuffles broke out but they were finally forced to retreat. All the time, scores of riot police were just a short distance away observing the dispersal attempt,” Rivera said.

He claimed that Villar initially admitted that the unidentified men were with him but later denied knowledge of the group.

“Nonetheless the circumstances reveal that PAL’s goons were acting in concert with Sheriff Villar since every time he attempted to tear down tents and streamers, the goons moved with him,” he said.

Blocking entrances

Meanwhile, PAL said in a statement Thursday that while protests are allowed, the Palea members encamped in front of its IFC facility had no right to hamper the airline’s business by blocking entrances and exits to the facility.

PAL counsel Clara de Castro said the protesting former PAL employees had been separated from the airline as of Oct. 1, 2011.

“While they’re contesting their separation from the company, they have no right whatsoever to prevent PAL employees and designated service providers from using the Inflight Center,” she said.

“After all, there’s no question that PAL is the owner of the facility and the building is essential to its operations,” she said.

She explained that the IFC houses PAL’s Cabin Services Department and the former PAL kitchen which has yet to be taken over by the new service provider, SkyKitchen Phil.

“Apart from the usual heckling and other acts of harassment, the protesters have also set up barricades and an illegal checkpoint. Drivers of PAL, its suppliers, service providers and even garbage collectors are harassed to yield to illegal inspections of their vehicles before they are allowed to enter or exit the gate,” De Castro said.

“These acts, taken together, constitute an illegal blockade of a privately owned enterprise. PAL is being prevented from performing its day-to-day business for which it will definitely sue for damages,” she said.

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TAGS: DOLE, Labor issues, PAL, PALEA
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