MANILA, Oct. 4, 2013—The protracted labor dispute between the ground crew of Philippines Airlines (PAL) and management has finally reached the doorsteps of the Vatican.
Nassa executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez personally handed to Pope Francis during an audience the PALEA’s letter asking the pope’s support in their campaign to “restore justice to the working people.”
Gerardo Rivera, PALEA president, in a letter to the pontiff, said “we seek the intercession of Your Holiness to achieve a just conclusion to the labor dispute.”
The union believes that an appeal from the pontiff to the stakeholders in the dispute “will exercise “moral suasion and may prove decisive in a settlement fair to the workers”.
Gariguez is currently in Rome to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Encyclical “Pacem in Terris” which began October 2 and ends on October 4.
The said Church document underlines the need to respect the rights of peoples and to ensure justice and the promotion of common good as a prerequisite to genuine global peace.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace organized the event in Vatican with a conference titled “Peace: new challenges.
Gariguez joins various Church leaders and representatives all around the world in the three-day event that ends Friday.
In one of the conference’s sessions that focuses on “Conflicts over access to resources (water, food, land and energy)”, Gariguez will make a presentation on the experience of the Church in the Philippines particularly the Mindoro campaign.
In an email letter, Gariguez narrated his personal encounter with the pontiff during an audience on October 3.
“When I came face to face with him, I greeted the Holy Father by saying that he is very much loved in the Philippines, and a labor group who had been on strike for two years wants to send him a letter. And the Pope just said: “Thank you!” And I cannot forget his warm and gentle smile,” Gariguez said.
“The good news is I was able to successfully deliver the letter to the Pope,” Gariguez exclaimed.
Biggest labor row
The PALEA has been embroiled in the country’s biggest labor dispute for the past two years.
In September 2011, more than 2,600 regular workers were laid off as part of an outsourcing scheme.
Nassa and other bishops have been behind the labor union’s campaign for the dignity of decent work, regular jobs and against contractualization at PAL.
“The support of Church officials and laity has given us utmost hope amidst the despair of a protracted dispute. The solidarity of the Church has indeed assisted us in innumerable ways,” said Rivera.
“We were fired with the intention of being hired as contract workers doing the same jobs without security of tenure, less wages, longer hours of work but without benefits,” Rivera added.
“Our only appeal is to restore justice to the working people. Unfortunately, the talks have not yet led to a settlement that is fair and just to the workers,” he said. (PB/CBCPNews)