IN a bid to stop “gender-based discrimination,” a Makati court has ordered Philippine Airlines to stop implementing an early retirement policy that supposedly discriminates against flight stewardesses who were hired before 1996.
Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 issued the order stopping PAL from implementing its early retirement policy.
That policy retires female flight attendants who were hired before November 1996 once they reach the age of 55, while male flight attendants are retired at age 60.
About 600 female members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines filed a class suit against the airline in 2004 alleging that their collective bargaining agreement covering the years 2000 to 2005 was gender discriminatory.
The stewardesses questioned why they had to be retired at 55 when stewards would be retired at 60.
Lawyer Lorna Kapunan, whose firm represents the petitioners, said 10 of the 14 flight attendants retired by PAL this year were hired before November 1996 and were covered by the court order.
But Kapunan said the 10 had so far not been given flight assignments despite the court ruling.
The airline would either rehire other affected flight attendants who had already retired or award them back pay apart from the damages they would be seeking, Kapunan said.
The carrier revised that policy in 1996 and set a common age limit for both male and female flight attendants, but to a much younger age of 45.
And then in 2000, the airline ruled that all flight attendants hired starting that year would be deemed retired at an even younger age of 40.
The flight attendants had threatened to strike after accusing the management of “bargaining in bad faith.” One of the issues they’re fighting is the compulsory retirement age of 40.
“We are against age and gender discrimination. PAL cannot continue to turn a blind eye to inequality,’’ group president Roberto Anduiza said.
“PAL should correct this discriminatory policy instead of using it as a bargaining chip against the flight attendants.”
The group also slammed the airline for not offering CBA proposals since the last deal expired in 2007.
Airline spokesman Cielo Villaluna said there was nothing illegal about setting the retirement age for the attendants hired starting 2000 at 40, adding that was provided for in the 2000 collective bargaining agreement.
The flag carrier is also facing problems with some of its pilots who abruptly resigned last week for better pay abroad, leaving the carrier’s operations in disarray. But mediation efforts by the government have cleared some of the problems and paved the way for at least some of the pilots to return to work.
The airline has reportedly agreed not to transfer some of its pilots to sister carrier AirPhil Express, which would have meant pay cuts for them.
“There will be no more transfers of PAL pilots to sister company AirPhil,” airline president Jaime Bautista said.
The government said it would no longer directly intervene in the pilots’ row. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang would just monitor the dialogues between the airline and the resigned pilots.“They are able to resolve this among themselves now,” Lacierda said. “The worst is over for the riding public.