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Philippine Airlines Fires Pilots

June 7, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Philippine Airlines announced Sunday it was firing all striking pilots who had defied a return to work order, plunging the financially-troubled airline into one of its most serious labor crises.

The action came after pilots continued a strike and staged a protest march Sunday, defying airline threats of dismissal unless they return to work by noon.

``Some pilots were able to beat the deadline but those who remained defiant were, in accordance with law and jurisprudence, declared as having lost their jobs with the airline,″ PAL said.

An airline official said ``virtually all of the airlines’ pilots″ were terminated and they have started processing applications for new pilots.

The strike began Friday, forcing international and domestic flight cancellations and leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Calling the strike illegal, the airline fired 29 officers of the 620-strong Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines Saturday and warned remaining members would also be dismissed if they didn’t return to work by noon Sunday.

Instead of returning to work, the pilots marched around a PAL compound in metropolitan Manila’s suburban Paranaque city, brandishing placards that read ``Give labor its due″ and ``All is not well in PAL.″

The union is protesting a new management policy of firing pilots who have reached 20 years of service or flown 20,000 hours, regardless of age. The policy puts about 200 pilots in danger of forced retirement, Umali said.

PAL called the strike illegal because the Department of Labor has assumed jurisdiction over the dispute and has barred both sides from committing any hostile actions.

Labor officials called both sides to a meeting Sunday afternoon but failed to end the dispute.

The airline said the strike was embarrassing the country, citing pilots, who abandoned a PAL plane in Bangkok at the start of the strike.

``This clearly demonstrates the pilots’ total lack of sensitivity,″ said PAL president Jose Antonio Garcia.

PAL scheduled five international and 14 domestic flights on Sunday, using management pilots.

Over the past four years, the airline has incurred annual losses ranging from $11.3 million to $62.5 million, in part because of large debts, an aging fleet and Asia’s currency crisis.

PAL says it faces an ``uncertain future,″ and announced plans earlier this year to cut expenses by as much as 40 percent, slash flights, and sharply reduce its work force. The airline hasn’t disclosed an estimate for its manpower reduction, but employees fear it could be as much as 30 percent.

PAL is controlled by Chinese Filipino tycoon Lucio Tan. It had been completely owned by the Philippine government from 1941 until it was partly sold in 1992.

Update hourly