Philippine Airlines union files strike notice

MANILA - A union representing Philippine Airlines (PAL) ground staff said Monday it had notified the government of its intention to call a strike in a dispute over the outsourcing of the airline's services.

Edgar Oredina, the head of the PAL Employees' Association (PALEA), said the "notice of strike" had been filed to force the government to become involved in resolving the dispute, which began in August.

"Before, we resorted to preventive mediation but since nothing happened, we converted this to a notice of strike. Once we file that, we put the negotiations on a higher level," Oredina told Agence France-Presse.

He said that actually embarking on a strike was "the worst-case scenario" and that the union was using the threat of a strike to prompt the labor secretary or even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to become involved.

"PAL has an outsourcing plan that would mean a lot of people would be gone from PAL. We are not asking for higher wages. This is just for job security," he said.

Oredina said it was proper that the government became involved because "the government contributed to this. The government had many policies that affected the revenues of PAL."

PALEA represents about 3,900 PAL employees in such areas as ground handling, maintenance and cargo operations, accounting for more than half of the national flag-carrier's 7,000 employees, Oredina said.

The airline said it was saddened by PALEA's move, which comes as "PAL is in an urgent financial predicament, with limited time and options."

It urged the union "to look at the big picture" of how the airline is trying to cope with a severe downturn in the global aviation industry.

PAL assured the public that all its operations would continue as normal.

Labour Department officials in charge of mediating strike threats said their agency's chief would meet union and PAL representatives on February 4.

In August, PAL said it would cut staff and realign operations after reporting a $301.4-million loss in the past fiscal year as it was hit by rising fuel costs.

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