October 1 was the start of PAL’s outsourcing program, affecting 2,600 ground crew and ticket sales personnel. It was truly heartbreaking to see employees, some of whom had served the company for 15, even 20 years, given the pink slip just to be hired again as lower paid contractuals under outsourcing companies owned by the very same people who fired them.
In fact, PAL started spinning off its operations at about the same time San Miguel Corp. did in the mid-90s. The first round resulted in a crippling strike which saw the mass laying off of its pilots and stewardess, especially their union leaders. It also forced PAL Employees Union (PALEA) to enter into a government-brokered deal for a 10-year moratorium on their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in exchange for management’s suspension of its outsourcing plans.
But in the end, PAL’s owners have gotten their way in busting the union and converting their CBA-protected workers into newly-hired, lower-paid contractuals.
Given this reality faced by workers all over the world, did PALs employees really stand a chance? I’m not so sure. For one thing, perhaps the strike took too long in coming that in the end, all they were really able to launch were protest actions. I’ve always believed that one should go on strike immediately after worker-management negotiations reach a deadlock so that its purpose as a pressure point is used to the fullest. The problem with striking at the end of a long-drawn mediation process is that by that time, union morale tends to get low with management taking every opportunity to divide and compromise the workers’ ranks. Also, too many characters and brokers, chief among them the government, would have already entered the picture severely limiting one’s tactics and options – what we call “nakakahon.”
The bottomline for most companies, of course, is profit. My only beef with this is that profit nowadays is measured not by whether a company makes money but whether it makes as much money as the others. For a modern-day capitalists, the measure of success is not in earning a profit per se but in earning as much or more than their fellow capitalists. Unfortunately, the role model is Smart and Globe and they really rake it in. In other words it’s not the profit, but the rate of profit that matters. In PAL’s case, my guess is that it wasn’t really losing money, it’s just that it wasn’t making enough for its owners.
But if there was anyone making more money than most of humanity, it was the late Steve Jobs, co-founder, CEO, ex-CEO and again, CEO of Apple. Jobs fathered the three must-have gadgets for today’s generation – the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Well, if you count the Mac and iTouch that would be five. Then there’s Pixar that produced Toy Story which my son continues to watch at least three times a week.
What we loved about Jobs was not his penchant for making money, although there’s that too, but his sense of style. One writer called him essentially a stylist for what would otherwise be cold, digital tools. Thus under his hands an mp3 player transfigured into an iPod, a mobile phone into an iPhone, a computer tablet into an iPad, and a laptop PC into a Mac. Some have a word for it – magic. He put magic into our hands.
What endeared Jobs to many was his audacity, his boldness of vision that resulted in products that we treasure, even love.
Compare flying Lucio Tan’s PAL and using Steve Job’s iPad and you’ll know what I mean. One is such a hassle and the other is such a joy.
Did Jobs have to fire thousands of people just to make more money? Did he have to violate his workers’ rights? Honestly I wouldn’t know. What I know is with the kind of prices he asked for his products, it would have been criminal for him not to have treated his workers fairly.
Jobs made many of us giddy happy spending double or triple for things we could have bought at cheaper prices. He made money in style. Now there’s a capitalist for you.#