Dismissed PAL workers get separation checks

- Edu Punay -

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Airlines (PAL) said yesterday over half of all former PAL workers have received their separation checks since Oct. 26, belying earlier claims by former union leaders that separated employees were rejecting the separation package.

Close to 60 percent of the more than 2,300 former employees of the three outsourced PAL offices, including former union members in the protest campsite at the PAL Inflight Center, got their checks which were being released since Oct.14 at seven distribution points.

Check distribution continues at PAL’s Recruitment Office, the company said.

“Our Human Resources Department at Pasay City alone accommodated 562 check claimants,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

Of those who refused to transfer to PAL’s service providers, more than one-third have already claimed their checks.

Meanwhile, the more than 600 staff who chose to work with the three service providers comprise the first batch to receive their checks.

The separation checks, partly funded by a $50-million loan from a European bank, comprise the economic package of the P2.6-billion severance bundle ordered by the labor department and Malacañang to be given to the outsourced employees.

“The daily crowd of former PAL employees claiming their separation checks is the best proof against the former union officers’ assertion that they are rejecting the package,” Villaluna said.

In Mactan, Cebu, 178 out of the 206 terminated employees have already received their separation checks.

Bur the checks of more than 300 union members who participated in the Sept. 27 wildcat strike at the NAIA Terminal 2 that grounded PAL flights for nearly 12 hours are being withheld pending their final clearance.

Villaluna said components of the package are higher than industry levels and more than the prescribed benefits under the Labor Code and PAL’s own Collective Bargaining Agreement with its ground workers’ union.

At the distribution points, emotions were high for those claiming their last paycheck. While some workers regretted their separation from PAL, most thanked the company for giving them the opportunity to send their children to school.

One worker in his early 60s, who worked for more than three decades at the Catering Sub-Department, said there is no bitterness as he leaves PAL.

He recounted that his recent heart bypass was fully covered by the airline’s comprehensive medical benefits.

Since he has chosen to retire early and enjoy his retirement benefits, he is giving his blessings for his son to join the airport service provider, Sky Logistics.

Another employee, a supervisor at the airport Central Baggage Services, felt disappointed at his colleagues’ decision to stage the Sept. 27 wildcat strike.

Despite getting separated from his long-time friends and co-workers, he chose to transfer early to the service provider as a gesture of gratitude for PAL’s medical benefit that also covered his hospital expenses after suffering from a stroke early this year.

A more than 60-year-old ramp equipment operator who has been with PAL for more than 30 years said he also decided to accept the package and retire early, using his retirement check to build a row of apartments.

He plans a simple retirement, living off the apartments’ monthly rent.

Another ramp equipment operator, in his early 50s, claimed that the only choice is to move on and take the package.

Together with some of his colleagues, he plans to go to Canada to apply for similar jobs.

Given the carrier’s rich history, being a PAL employee is all about pride and prestige, notwithstanding distorted claims hurled against the airline.

“Most prominent among the displaced workers is the sense of utang na loob (debt of gratitude)for all that the company had given them through the years,” Villaluna said.

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