Friday, August 26, 2011

PALEA files petition at Court of Appeals

Press Release
August 26, 2011
PALEA

The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) this afternoon filed a petition for certiorari at the Court of Appeals (CA) to question the Office of the President (OP) ruling on the legality of the outsourcing plan at Philippine Airlines (PAL). PALEA officers led by President Gerry Rivera together with their lawyers Attys. Joeven Dellosa and Marlon Manuel filed the petition late this afternoon.

PALEA maintains its position that management cannot prematurely implement the decision of the OP the same being not final and executory. We will exhaust and exercise the available remedies among them the perfected petition at the CA,” declared Rivera.

PALEA’s filing of a CA petition comes on the heels of an announcement yesterday by PAL that it has sent termination notices to some 2,600 employees which will be effective on September 30. The petition for certiorari or review is docketed as C.A. G.R. No. 120977 and seeks to annul the OP decision for grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

Rivera reiterated that “If PAL management pushes through with the mass layoffs, we will construe that as a defiance to judicial process and a direct challenge to the union. PALEA will act to defend its members.”

In preparation, PALEA is calling for solidarity from other labor groups and its allies in civil society for any mass action that it will hold in the coming days. “PALEA is the last line of defense against contractualization. We are thus calling for solidarity from our brothers and sisters in the labor movement and our allies in institutions such as the Church,” announced Rivera.

He elaborated that “PAL employees have sacrificed for 13 years already their right to bargain collectively and now that the flag carrier is financially healthy, it will reward its workers by mass termination. Since 1998, the collective bargaining agreement has been suspended and as a consequence, for example, the last wage hike for PAL’s ground crew was in 2008. But we are fighting not just for our welfare as regular PAL employees. We are also struggling for the future of all Filipino workers. There is no dignity and justice in a contractual job for workers.”

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo has already scored the OP for its adverse ruling on PALEA while airline unions in the Asia Pacific and the global union International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) declared solidarity with PALEA last August 12. The aviation workers announced they will not act as scabs in case of a strike at PAL. The flag carrier has said that other airlines have committed to service PAL’s routes should it be hit by a work stoppage.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

PALEA pickets PAL stockholders meeting, appeals for a stop to outsourcing

Press Release
August 25, 2011
PALEA

The embattled Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) picketed this morning the annual stockholders meeting of Philippine Airlines (PAL) at the Century Park Sheraton Hotel in Malate, Manila. The union called on the stockholders to stop the outsourcing plan of management.

“Despite the overwhelming number of shares owned by Lucio Tan, the so-called Employees’ Rehabilitation Shares still comprise the fourth largest block of PAL stocks and so we believe that it is necessary to listen to the demands of PAL employees,” said Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM). The Employees’ Rehabilitation Shares or employee stock options were part of the agreement in 1998 that included a PAL board seat for PALEA in return for the moratorium in the collective bargaining agreement.

“We have sacrificed our collective bargaining rights for 13 long years since 1998 and it is unjust for PAL to reward us with retrenchment for it. We appeal to management to craft a business model that does not include outsourcing jobs,” Rivera argued.

He added that “Instead of adding value to the company, the outsourcing plan is a heavy baggage for PAL. Yet PAL’s experience has shown that it does not need outsourcing to grow and be profitable.”

The financial statements for fiscal year 2010-11 that was presented to the stockholders meeting show USD 72.5 million in net income. This was aside from a USD 46.5 million payments in PAL’s outstanding debt last June 2010. PALEA has thus been insisting that PAL’s healthy financial condition belied the need to terminate some 2,600 workers.

The rally at the stockholders meeting came on the heels of a PALEA-led motorcade that traversed from the
Airport Road
to
Ayala Ave.
in Makati. PAL ground employees have also been wearing black ribbons at work since the Office of the President (OP) released its decision last August 11 allowing the outsourcing plan.

PALEA had announced that it will resist should management prematurely implementing the outsourcing scheme since it believes that the OP ruling is not executory pending final judicial resolution of the case.

PALEA plans to file a petition at the Court of Appeals in the next few days to question the legality of the mass layoff and job outsourcing of more than half of the membership of the union.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PM: Subject outsourcing to bargaining talks to prevent strike

PALEA and Church-Labor Conference ends motorcade with program at Ninoy Aquino monumnet in Ayala Ave.
Press Release
August 23, 2011

Amidst the Aquino administration’s apprehensions about a strike at Philippine Airlines (PAL), the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) proposed that the controversial outsourcing plan be subject to collective bargaining negotiations. Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson, said that “Outsourcing should be part of bilateral talks between the company and the union instead of unilaterally imposed on its employees. This is the solution to the two-year long labor row between PAL and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA).”

Yesterday Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas called on PAL to setup contingency plans for a work stoppage at the flag carrier. Last week Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda asked PALEA not to paralyze the operations of the flag carrier.

Magtubo argued that “Instead of preparing to break any picket line and calling on PALEA not to strike—a right is guaranteed by law and an instrument of last resort by workers— government must exert moral suasion on PAL to subject the outsourcing plan to collective bargaining negotiations.”

He added that “For 13 long years, PAL employees have sacrificed their right to bargain collectively and now that the flag carrier is financially healthy, it will reward its workers by mass termination. Since 1998, the collective bargaining agreement has been suspended and as a consequence, just to cite an example, the last wage hike for PAL’s ground crew was in 2008.”

Meanwhile Gerry Rivera, PALEA president, announced that they are preparing for more protests this week even as their lawyers are finalizing the petition to be filed at the Court of Appeals. Yesterday PALEA led a protest motorcade of some 20 cars and 50 motorcycles from the Philippine Export Zone Authority office in
Roxas Boulevard
to the Ninoy Aquino monument in
Ayala Ave.
in Makati. PALEA insists that the Office of the President ruling allowing the outsourcing plan is not yet executory pending a final judicial resolution of the case and vows to resist should management prematurely implement the mass layoff of 2,600 workers.

“If PNoy wants to prevent a strike at PAL, government should have heeded workers demands for regular jobs instead of agreeing to Lucio Tan’s contractualization scheme,” Magtubo added. Describing PALEA as “the last line of defense against contractualization,” PM and other big labor groups have vowed to support the embattled union in its fight.

Monday, August 22, 2011

PALEA and allies hold motorcade vs. contractualization, vow to escalate campaign against planned layoffs at PAL

Press Release
August 22, 2011
PALEA

Describing the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) as the “last line of defense against contractualization,” a coalition of labor and church organizations are leading today’s motorcade for regular jobs. The groups participating include PALEA, Partido ng Manggagaawa (PM), National Union of Building and Construction Workers, Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan, Federation of Free Workers, Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, PM-Kabataan, Church-Labor Conference, Urban Missionaries, Archdiocesan Ministry for Labor Concerns and the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“At the end of the motorcade, we will be holding a program at the monument of Ninoy Aquino, who’s death anniversary was commemorated yesterday. Ninoy said that the Filipino was worth dying for but unfortunately his son PNoy believes that Filipino workers are worth sacrifing,” declared Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and PM vice chair.

The protest motorcade will start by 4:00 p.m. at the office of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority in
Roxas Boulevard
cor. Buendia and then proceed to
Ayala Ave.
in Makati. Rivera revealed that more mass actions are slated this week.

Explaining the labor groups’ support for PALEA, Renato Magtubo, PM chair said that “For PALEA this is not just a fight for their future as regular PAL employees. It is also a struggle for the welfare of all Filipino workers. There is no dignity, there is no future in a contractual job. Ang kontraktwalisasyon ay isa ring anyo ng wang-wang. It is capitalist abuse of workers for more profit.”

Rivera argued that “After making its workers sacrifice their collective bargaining rights for more than a decade, PAL now wants to rewards us with mass termination and refusal to bargain.” The PAL-PALEA collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been suspended for 13 years since 1998. As a consequence, the last wage hike enjoyed by PAL employees was in 2008.

In response to Malacanang’s call for PALEA to refrain from a strike, Magtubo asserted that the Palace should instead exert moral suasion on PAL to begin negotiations for a CBA. “If he wants to prevent a paralyzing strike, PNoy should mediate between PAL and PALEA for an agreement that any outsourcing plan should be subject to collective bargaining negotiations rather than unilaterally imposed on employees. This is the win-win solution to this protracted labor row,” Magtubo insisted.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Labor groups reiterate support for PALEA, PM calls for collective bargaining as win-win solution

International Transport Workers Federation Asia Pacific affiliates in the aviation industry express solidarity for PALEA
Press Release
August 21, 2011

A rainbow coalition of labor groups reiterated their support for the embattled Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) in its fight against mass layoffs at Philippine Airlines (PAL). “PALEA is the last line of defense against contractualization and thus labor groups are mobilizing in this battle for regular jobs. Ang laban ng PALEA ay laban ng lahat. Ang laban ng lahat ay kontra kontraktwalisasyon,” stated Renato Magtubo, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chairperson.

In response to Malacanang’s call for PALEA to refrain from a strike, Magtubo asserted that the Palace should instead exert moral suasion on PAL to begin negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The PAL-PALEA CBA has been suspended for 13 years since 1998. “If he wants to prevent a paralyzing strike, PNoy should mediate between PAL and PALEA for an agreement that any outsourcing plan should be subject to collective bargaining negotiations rather than unilaterally imposed on employees. This is the win-win solution to this protracted labor row,” Magtubo argued.

Meanwhile Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and PM vice chair, dismissed PAL’s spokesperson Cielo Villaluna’s threat of administrative sanctions for employees joining protest actions. “PALEA members have been protesting since last Thursday by wearing black ribbons while at work. We are fighting not just for the regular jobs of PAL employees but for a decent future for all Filipino workers. There is no dignity and future in a contractual job that pays starvation wages, lacks sufficient benefits, is without security of tenure and is unprotected by a union,” he explained.

An initial contingent of labor and church organizations are joining tomorrow’s motorcade against contractualization. Aside from PALEA and PM, the National Union of Building and Construction Workers, Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan, Federation of Free Workers, Church-Labor Conference, Urban Missionaries, Archdiocesan Ministry for Labor Concerns and the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines are participating.

Earlier this week, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo scored the Office of the President for its adverse ruling on PALEA while airline unions in the Asia Pacific and the global union International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) declared solidarity with PALEA. The aviation workers announced they will not act as cabs in case of a strike at PAL. The flag carrier has said that other airlines have committed to service PAL’s routes should it be hit by a work stoppage.

The protest motorcade will start by 4:00 p.m. at the office of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority in
Roxas Boulevard
cor. Buendia and then proceed to
Ayala Ave.
in Makati. The groups plan to hold a program at the Ninoy Aquino monument at the corner of
Ayala Ave.
and Paseo de Roxas. Rivera revealed that more mass actions are slated in the coming week.

Solidarity Statement from Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines) to the Hong Kong Protest Against Racist Demonstration

The Partido ng Manggagawa as the political party of the working class in the Philippines extends its hand of solidarity to the Hong Kong progressive workers and youth protest against the racist demonstration. The progressive workers and youth counter-demonstration communicates a message of unity and solidarity among peoples of different cultures and nationalities while the racist rally of councilor Paul Tse highlights the propaganda of discrimination and hate between locals and foreigners.

The workers in the Philippines support the anti-racist counter-demonstration not simply to assist our fellow Filipinos working in Hong Kong who are vulnerable and victim to discrimination and abuse. We back the counter-demonstration because we believe in working class unity that in a place like Hong Kong necessarily means solidarity among workers of different nationalities.

There are an estimated 150,000 Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong, most of who are domestic helpers and they comprise a third of such workers in this city. They obviously share the same conditions and interests as other migrant workers such as from Indonesia and Vietnam but also from mainland China, despite the differences in countries of origins, languages and cultures.

Contrary to the lies and propaganda of Paul Tse, migrant workers also share the same concerns and demands as local Hong Kong workers and youth. Because of their common destiny as waged labor, the interests and plight of locals and migrants are bound together. The colors of our skin may be different and we may speak diverse dialects but we are all workers who suffer from the exploitation and oppression of employers.

In fact it is capitalists and their agents like Paul Tse who benefit from splitting the ranks of workers and putting a Chinese wall between local and migrant labor. Only by uniting can workers advance its interests while disunity weakens our cause. Improving the wages and working conditions of migrants will ultimately lead to the betterment of local workers. And vice versa.

As can be seen from the track record of Paul Tse, he is not only a rabid racist but an anti-labor legislator. He was the only one who voted last year against a minimum wage in Hong Kong. Clearly he is not a superman as he advertises himself. But moreover he is not a defender of Hong Kong locals, a majority of whom are workers, as he claims. He is simply a protector of capitalist interests. In pursuit of this agenda, he wants to pit local against migrant workers. In this way, the ranks of the workers will weaken and our demands cannot be advanced by a united labor movement.

The Partido ng Manggagawa calls on our brother and sister migrant workers or OFWs as they called in the Philippines, to join and participate in the anti-racist counter demonstration on August 21.

Workers of the world unite! Manggagawa ng buong mundo, magkaisa!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

PALEA to act vs. premature implementation of layoffs at PAL


A PAL employee's child write her mother about the planned layoffs and the motorcade on Monday, August 22

Press Release
August 20, 2011
PALEA

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) warned management against prematurely implementing the planned retrenchment of more than 2,600 workers. The union asserts that Office of the President (OP) is yet executory pending final judicial resolution of the case. “PALEA will act accordingly to defend the jobs and the future of PAL employees should management make the mistake of hastily laying off workers,” declared Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

PALEA also dismissed the appeal of Malacanang that the union refrains from paralyzing the operations of the national flag carrier. “Why is PNoy so worried that PAL’s profitable operations go unhampered but is so unconcerned about thousands of workers losing their regular jobs? If the Palace is concerned about a strike at PAL then they should have heeded the demands of its workers instead of acceding to management’s plans,” Rivera argued.

In response to the OP decision and the planned layoffs at PAL’s, PALEA is embarking on both a legal course and mass actions. A petition is to be filed with the Court of Appeals while protests by PAL employees and their allies are being held. PAL employees in Manila have been wearing black ribbons, shirts and blouses since last Thursday while those in the provincial airports started yesterday. On Monday afternoon a motorcade will be launched that will start from the office of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority in
Roxas Boulevard
cor. Buendia and then proceed to
Ayala Ave.
in Makati.

Rivera added that “We are ready to defend our jobs and the union if PAL does not back down on forcing employees to accept the retrenchment plan. We call on PALEA members to be ready to act on a moment’s notice. PALEA members will rather die standing than be killed on our knees.”

PALEA lambasted as a “misinformation drive” the “town hall meetings” that management plan to hold with PAL employees. “If management tries to convince employees to accept the layoff plan then it is tantamount to individual bargaining that is an unfair labor practice and a strikable offence,” Rivera insisted.

The union criticized management for its “double standards on implementing government rulings.” Rivera explained that “PAL has no moral authority to convince the ground crew to accept the OP decision when it does not even implement the Labor Department decisions on the retirement age of flight attendants.”

Rivera described the roots of the militance of PAL employees by saying that “After making its workers sacrifice their collective bargaining rights for more than a decade, PAL now rewards them with termination and refusal to bargain.” The collective bargaining negotiations have been suspended since 1998 and till now PAL refuses to open talks with PALEA. As a consequence, the last wage hike enjoyed by PAL employees was in 2008.

Friday, August 19, 2011

PALEA rejects dialogue on layoff plan, gets support of Asia Pacific aviation unions

Press Release
August 19, 2011
PALEA

The Philippine Airline Employees’ Association (PALEA) rejected the invitation of Philippine Airlines (PAL) management for a dialogue today on implementing the plan to retrench 2,600 workers. In a letter sent yesterday to PAL President Jaime Bautista, PALEA stated that “We maintain our position that despite the decision of the Secretary of Labor, and the Office of the President, PAL cannot prematurely implement its planned mass termination of employees and union members… PALEA will exhaust all remedies available to it, including seeking a judicial resolution of the case.”

Gerry Rivera, PALEA President and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) vice chair, nonetheless clarified that they are willing anytime to discuss with PAL measures to make the company viable except outsourcing jobs. PALEA is already preparing with its lawyers, Attys. Marlon Manuel and Joven Dellosa, a petition at the Court of Appeals on the legality of the retrenchment and outsourcing plan.

Meanwhile the embattled PALEA garnered the support of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and its affiliates in the Asia Pacific region. In a press conference this morning, ITF general secretary for Asia Pacific, Mahendra Sharma, declared the global union’s solidarity with PALEA. ITF Asia Pacific officers and member unions in Garuda of Indonesia, Air India and Malaysian Airlines are in Manila for a workers seminar but took a short break for the solidarity activity with PALEA.

Protests against the decision of the Office of the President allowing PAL to lay off more than half of its workforce already started yesterday with PALEA members wearing black ribbons on their uniforms while at work. On Monday PALEA together with PM, Hanjin workers and the Church-Labor Conference will hold a motorcade. The motorcade will assemble on 4:00 pm at the office of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority in Buendia cor.
Roxas Blvd.
and then proceed to
Ayala Ave.
in Makati by 5:00 pm.

PALEA insists that PAL’s robust financial health belies its contention that outsourcing is necessary to make the flag carrier profitable. “PAL actually earned more than USD 72.5 million in its last fiscal year from April 2010 to March 2011 since it paid USD 46.5 million in outstanding debt last June 7, 2010. Even granting PAL’s reasoning that its profitability is cyclical, such falls short of jurisprudence that sustained losses are a necessary ground for retrenchment,” Rivera asserted.

Rivera argued that “PAL claims that outsourcing is a global trend that it must follow. Instead we see an international pattern of resistance against contractualization in the aviation industry as shown by the present labor disputes erupting in PALEA, Garuda, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Jetstar.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

PNoy denies PALEA appeal, allows PAL to retrench despite huge profit; PALEA slams PNoy fire-all-you-can policy


Press Release
August 18, 2011
PALEA

In a decision dated August 11, the Office of the President (OP) denied the motion for reconsideration of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and affirmed its earlier ruling allowing Philippine Airlines to lay off 2,600 employees and make them contractual workers in third-party service providers. Gerry Rivera, PALEA President and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) vice chairperson, slammed the decision by saying “With the OP decision permitting PAL to retrench thousands of workers despite billions in profit, PNoy has unveiled his fire-all-you-can policy. This overturns the provisions of the Labor Code and jurisprudence of the Courts that serious financial losses are a necessary ground for retrenchment.”

PALEA is already preparing together with its lawyers, who received the OP decision yesterday, an appeal to be filed at the Court of Appeals. The union has announced a protest action on Monday against the OP decision. Also Rivera is going to ask for support from fellow airline unions in the Asia-Pacific region as he is attending today a seminar on the aviation industry sponsored by the International Transport Workers Federation.

PALEA, PM and the Church-Labor Conference will hold a motorcade on the afternoon of August 22 to protest the OP decision and highlight the campaign against contractualization. The motorcade will start at the PEZA office in Buendia corner Roxas Boulevard and then proceed to Ayala Avenue in Makati.

“PNoy’s employment policy is a second-rate trying-hard copycat of American industrial relations where giant money-making corporations can fire at will. But he should beware since the result of flexible employment relations in the US was not economic progress but financial crisis. The unequal distribution of wealth is at the root of the global financial crash of 2008 and even the present threat of a double-dip recession in the US,” Rivera stated.

The decision came one week after PALEA filed manifestations to the OP and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) last August 3. The manifestations asked the OP and NLRC to take consideration of PAL’s net yearly income of USD 72.5 million. “The OP has turned a blind eye to the fact that PAL’s robust financial health belies the latter’s argument that outsourcing is necessary for the flag carrier to survive. Since PAL is awash in profits even without outsourcing then there is no reason for it to retrench employees,” Rivera asserted.

Last July 21, PAL filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission its consolidated financial report for the fiscal year ending in March 31, 20011. “The latest yearly income wiped out the previous year’s USD 14.4 million loss. In fact PAL’s actual profit was more than USD 72.5 million since it paid USD 46.5 million in outstanding debt last June 7, 2010. PAL earned more than a hundred million dollars in just one year,” argued Rivera.

He added that “But even with just the declared yearly income, PAL can easily cover the costs of PALEA’s CBA proposal for 2008-2013. Again there is no cause for PAL to refuse to bargain in good faith with PALEA.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gen. Danilo Lim visits hunger strikers at NBP, joins call for release of political prisoners

PRESS RELEASE
16 August 2011

Former Scout Ranger commander and an ex-political detainee himself, Gen. Danilo Lim, is joining the human rights community led by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action –Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA) in a visit this afternoon to political prisoners at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) who are now on their 23rd day of hunger strike.

Joining Lim is another ex-political detainee, Nilo Tayag, who is now a bishop of the Philippine Independent Church (IFI).

On Saturday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged President Benigno Aquino III to free political prisoners through an executive clemency especially for those who have already served their long and unjust sentences.

Partido ng Manggagawa renewed its call for President Aquino to end the sufferings of the remaining political prisoners as many of them had been convicted on false charges of common crimes.

One of the hunger strikers, Juanito Itaas, was in jail since 1989 for the assassination of US Col. James Rowe, a charged he vehemently denied.  In prison for 22 years, Itaas is now considered one of the longest serving political detainees in the world, next to Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years for sabotage and high treason. According to reports, Israel is holding the longest serving political prisoner, a Palestinian, who is serving his 34th year in prison.

According to Gen Lim, he and Itaas once shared the same prison compound as he was also detained in connection to the 1989 coup.  Itaas is now leading the hunger strike for freedom at the NBP.

On Sunday night, two more hunger strikers, Diony Sarad and Tendero Fuentes, were brought to the NBP Infirmary for severe abdominal pain.  Doctors from the Medical Action Group (MAG) who joined today’s visit are looking into the health condition of the hunger strikers.

The groups were still hopeful that President Aquino would finally heed their appeal for clemency since political prisoners are not hardened criminals who warrant continued imprisonment for life.

Human rights groups were also set to have a dialogue with the Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) at Malacanang earlier this morning.  Another dialogue with the Department of Justice is scheduled this coming Friday.

Monday, August 15, 2011

UNITY STATEMENT: Campaign for the Just Treatment of International Corps of Educators

Over the past decade, the United States saw a growing shortage of teachers especially in inner-city and remote rural schools. This shortage was further compounded with the increased need for highly-qualified teachers as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mainly in core areas such as math, science and special education.  In response to this shortage, school districts all over the country looked around the globe to recruit experienced and credentialed teachers to assist the country in educating its children.  This was answered more than willingly by thousands of foreign teachers annually.

The arrival of international teachers was welcomed by different schools nationwide.  Indeed, our country is a nation of immigrants and it is built on the contributions of different peoples from all over the world.  The communities readily embrace these new workers as they are to be part of the continuing story of our nation’s greatness.  Meanwhile, these international teachers are delighted to having accomplished the first step towards a better future for their families – a shot at the American dream.

The other half of the story is not as beautiful as we imagined however.  In the process by which they were recruited and years after they started working, these international teachers are subjected to different forms of deceit and manipulation.  The most common form of exploitation is the charging of illegally exorbitant placement fees and other charges.  But grabbing the opportunity to work in the US, these teachers risked everything, often leaving their respective countries deep in debt.

Ironically, the most recent of these unfair treatment of international teachers stems from a US Department of Labor ruling which is supposed to be against an employer who admitted to breaking the law.  The US DOL Wage and Hour Division found Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in willful violation of the laws governing the H1B foreign worker program.  By having the recruited teachers pay for various fees that are supposed to be shouldered by the employer, the ruling asserted that this is tantamount to PGCPS not paying the proper wages.

In settlement for the violations, PGCPS and the DOL agreed on the following remedies: (1) PGCPS to pay $4 million in back wages to the teachers; (2) PGCPS to pay $1.7 million civil penalty; and (3) PGCPS is debarred for two years from participating in the H1B program. This DOL ruling, at a glance, is a victory to the H1B teachers who were victimized by illegal fees, and victory to the American workers as well, as the penalty seeks to prevent employers from paying lower wages to foreign counterparts.

The full burden of the ruling’s remedies, however, falls on the victims themselves.  With PGCPS debarred from the H1B program, it will not be able to renew the legal stay of its existing teachers whose H1B visas are set to expire within the next two years.  The school district is also prohibited from filing permanent visa sponsorships for these teachers who, under the intent of H1B program, deserve to become permanent residents of the US.  This results to a series of terminations that by the end of July 2011 alone more than 200 teachers are affected.

We resolutely decry this US DOL ruling as it is patently unjust.  This is the United States of America, a nation that values equality and fairness, a land of opportunities; where those who do well are rewarded and those who violate its laws face the force of justice.  In this DOL ruling, the violator gets a slap on the wrist and the more than 1,000 teachers who are victims are awarded token cash before being sent to the gallows.

Let us be aware that these teachers, most of them from the Philippines, already made extreme personal sacrifices – selling their homes, exhausting their savings, getting high-interest loans, uprooting their families – in order to help our country educate our children.   For almost six years, they have become an active part of our communities.  Sending them back to their respective countries is equivalent to sentencing them to even more severe hardships.

We strongly denounce this US DOL ruling as it contradicts the spirit of the law and sets a bad precedent to future cases.  Further, this will clearly be a powerful disincentive to victims who intend to expose fraudulent recruiting schemes perpetrated by rogue employers.

The law is intended to penalize violating employers but not at the expense of its victims, as that would not serve as a deterrent to unlawful activity, but rather a deterrent to the discovery of wrongdoings in the first place. We are aware that there are numerous investigations currently conducted by the US DOL involving this kind of employer violation.  It is frightening that this ruling will be a possible template for these cases.

We vehemently reject this US DOL ruling as it goes against the interests of the children of Prince George County.  These international corps of educators have strong track records and made important contributions to improving the performance of the school district. They deserve to be commended and not terminated.

Currently, PGCPS needs more highly qualified teachers with the reduction in force implemented the previous years.  Losing 1,000 more of these tested-and-proven credentialed educators who have a head start of knowing the children of Prince George is not only damaging to the school district but is as good as throwing away the investments that will help prepare its students to be globally competitive.

With the points raised above, we, the undersigned organizations, trade unions and federations, community groups and advocacy networks, firmly urge the US Department of Labor to reconsider its ruling.  We insist on a fair and just remedy that will allow current international teachers — the very victims of the violation — to continue their legal stay and employment with PGCPS.

We call on the nation’s legislators to review the laws governing recruitment and employment of foreign workers. We petition for amendments that will bring stronger protection to both American and foreign workers especially those who are victims of fraud and visa violations.

We appeal to other organizations and groups, parents and the public as a whole to unite with the international teachers of Prince George County in their quest for justice. This is not an issue of the teachers alone but a concern affecting the children in our communities.  This is not an issue about the school district alone but a concern of our nation — a nation that is a beneficiary of talents, knowledge and skills of foreign workers.

Justice for the Prince George County international teachers!
Justice for all foreign teachers!

Signatories:
To sign on to this statement please email to campjustice@gmail.com. See updates at http://campjustice.wordpress.com/

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PALEA asks gov’t anew to stop outsourcing as PAL is awash in profits

Press Release
August 14, 2011
PALEA

With Philippine Airlines (PAL) reporting a net yearly income of USD 72.5 million, the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) once more petitioned the government to stop the outsourcing plan of management and order it to begin negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This was contained in manifestations by PALEA to the Office of the President (OP) and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) filed last August 3. PALEA has a pending motion for appeal on the legality of the outsourcing plan at the OP while its case for refusal to bargain is being heard by the NLRC.

“We call on the OP and the NLRC to take consideration of PAL’s more than PhP 3 billion profit (at USD to PhP exchange rate of 42.5) in making their decision in on the pending cases. PAL’s robust financial health belies its argument that outsourcing is necessary for the flag carrier to survive. Since PAL is awash in profits even without outsourcing then there is no reason for it to retrench more than 2,600 employees,” insisted Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and Partido ng Manggagawa vice chair.

Last July 21, PAL filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission its consolidated financial report for the fiscal year ending in March 31, 20011. “The latest yearly income wiped out the previous year’s USD 14.4 million loss. In fact PAL’s actual profit was more than USD 72.5 million since it paid USD 46.5 million in outstanding debt last June 7, 2010. PAL earned more than a hundred million dollars in just one year,” argued Rivera.

He added that “But even with just the declared yearly income, PAL can easily cover the costs of PALEA’s CBA proposal for 2008-2013. Again there is no cause for PAL to refuse to bargain in good faith with PALEA.”

Aside from PAL’s big income, PALEA also cited in its manifestation the 14% increase in total current asset, decrease in the company’s total liabilities, 176% increase in equity among its shareholders, and even the growth of the flag carrier’s fleet to 51 aircraft.

“If despite PAL’s lucrative operations, PNoy allows the outsourcing plan, then it would mean a historic shift in government policy to allow profitable companies to retrench thousands of its workers. It would mean making our employment policy a second-rate trying-hard copycat of American industrial relations where giant money-making corporations can fire at will,” Rivera explained.

He furthered that “But PNoy should beware since the result of flexible employment relations in the US was not economic progress but financial crisis. The unequal distribution of wealth is at the root of the global financial crash of 2008 at even the present threat of a double-dip recession in the US.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RH bill, labor protection pushed on International Youth Day

PRESS RELEASE
Partido ng Manggagawa-Kabataan
12 August 2011

The youth arm of militant labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on Congress to end debates on the reproductive health bill and finally pass the measure so that efforts and energies are now shifted to finer details for its implementation to bring immediate impact on poor women and their families.

“Measures such as the RH bill and new labor protection policies are needed in the face of the catasthropic impact of the global economic crisis on the working class especially women and youth,” Partido ng Manggagawa – Kabataan  (PM-K) said in a statement as it joins other youth groups in a rally today at the House of Representatives and the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) in Quezon City in time for the celebration of International Youth Day.

 At the House of Representatives youth groups pressed for the immediate passage of the RH bill saying the measure has already been overly debated while women, especially young mothers, suffer daily from unattended reproductive health needs.  Later at the OSHC, the groups demanded strict enforcement of safety and other labor standards in the country, citing the case of a Korean-owned shipyard Hanjin where workers die due to work-related accidents.  All of the company’s 21,000 workforce also work as contractuals.  The youth group is opposed to the policy of contractualization.

“We want a change in the prevailing environment of joblessness, deteriorating working conditions and lack of social protection for the present and future generation of young workers, especially women,” said Carol Hernandez of the PM-K, referring to this year’s International Youth Day theme, “Change Our World”.

Hernandez said President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” to be relevant to the present realities of the youth must be translated into “bagong landas” as old rhetorics of “change” or “wang-wang” cannot undo the damage done to people and the environment by economic and social policies under the regime of privatization, deregulation and economic liberalization which all favor the interests of rich nations.

“There must be change in policies.  Without it the young generation will continue to suffer the life of indignity under the harsh environment of poverty and desperation.  We want jobs, a regular good paying jobs.   We want a secure and ecologically livable future,” concludes Hernandez.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Labor group hopeful of the release of political prisoners as peace talks make headway

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) is hopeful the release of political prisoners can be made possible as conditions for the resumption of peace negotiations with the country’s rebel groups get a boost from the Tokyo meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). 

“We hope that political prisoners reap the early gains from the improving environment for peace talks”, stated PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda. 

PM together with the members of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) trooped to the Department of Justice this morning to press for the release of all political prisoners.

Miranda said political prisoners should be considered by the government as “beneficiaries” of peace even prior to the conclusion of final peace agreements with the revolutionary movements.

“In fact an act of magnanimity can be extended by the government to political prisoners even without the peace talks as many of them have already served their full sentences from many years of detention,” argued Miranda, citing the case of Juanito Itaas who had been serving prison terms since 1989.

There are still more than 300 political prisoners languishing in different jails all over the country according to human rights groups.  All of them were accused of having links with either the communist or separatist movements but were held for as common criminals.

Political prisoners at the National Bilibid Prison went on hunger strike since President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to appeal for their immediate and unconditional release.   After the dialogue with human rights groups and DOJ officials last week, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered prison officials to look into the conditions of the hunger strikers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

We call on GMA to do a Zubiri

Press Statement
August 4, 2011
Renato Magtubo

Many were happy with the resignation of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in the face of the widening expose on electoral fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections. Still even more are sad that Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo still has not resigned yet.

We call on GMA to do a Zubiri. We urge her to follow his good example. Like Zubiri, GMA does not have to admit that she did cheat. But her resignation nonetheless will give a bigger berth for the investigation of cheating in the presidential polls of 2004. But GMA doing a Zubiri may of course be wishful thinking given that resignation will wipe out any residual immunity and power that she still enjoys as a congresswoman.

By resigning, Zubiri wanted to take the heat away from him since he apparently is not Teflon-coated like GMA. Or to say the same thing, that Zubiri is not made of the same thick hide as GMA.

We hope that GMA makes a speedy recovery from her spine surgery so that she can face in the soonest possible time the probe not just on electoral fraud but on other anomalies during her administration.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Labor group to P-Noy: Do a Cory, free all political prisoners

On Cory Aquino's death anniversary, militants rally at DOJ to call on PNoy to release all political prisoners
PRESS RELEASE
01 August 2011

President Benigno S. Aquino III “can do a Cory” by ordering the unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners (PPs), the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement as the country commemorates the second death anniversary of the former President.

PM joined the families of political prisoners in a rally held this morning at the Department of Justice organized by human rights groups to press for the release of all the remaining political prisoners in the country.

“Giving political prisoners a chance for new life is a good way of remembering his mother  who was credited for ordering the unconditional release of all political detainees during her time,” said PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda.

PM leaders visited the political prisoners at NBP’s Building 11 yesterday. Miranda said ten (10) political prisoners led by Juanito Itaas, the longest-serving political prisoner in the country, are still on full hunger strike while others are on sympathy fasting.

The labor group likewise urged Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to include this issue on top of her many priorities as she had promised to during her dialogue with the political prisoners sometime in 2009 when she was still the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. 

All of the more than 300 political prisoners in the country were jailed for non-bailable crimes such as murder and kidnapping rather than for political offenses related to their political activities.   Itaas for instance was implicated for the murder of US Col. James Rowe 22 years ago.  He was arrested in 1989 in Davao City. 

Like Itaas, most of the political prisoners are ordinary farmers who were accused of being NPA rebels and were locked up for life on trump-up charges.

“They have suffered enough.  Many of our political prisoners have in fact served in full their life sentences and therefore are already qualified for unconditional pardon,” concluded Miranda.