SC spares pregnant pilot as it upholds firing of 28
The Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of 28 pilots of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) who staged a strike in 1998, but spared one woman pilot, ruling that she was unduly fired since she could not have participated in the picket on account of her pregnancy.
The high court’s First Division dismissed for lack of merit the petitions of the 28 pilots, who had sued the airline for illegal dismissal (23 petitioners) and for reinstatement (five petitioners).
In a 36-page ruling, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro said Gladys Jadie was illegally dismissed as she was clearly not among the pilots who participated in the strike because she was on maternity leave.
PAL fired 600 pilots, all members of the Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines (Alpap), after they staged a strike in June 1998 in protest of a new airline policy to retire pilots who have reached 20 years in service or have completed 20,000 flying hours.
They were fired after defying a return-to-work order issued by the Department of Labor and Employment on June 7, 1998.
But the high court said Jadie was not at fault, as her condition could not have allowed her to take part in the strike.
“Jadie was already on maternity leave. Jadie did not join the strike and could not be reasonably expected to report back for work in compliance with the return-to-work order. Indeed, Jadie gave birth on June 24, 1998,” read the ruling.
The court granted Jadie separation pay, but said she could no longer be reinstated for the following reasons (quoted verbatim from the ruling): 1. Jadie’s former position as Captain of the E-50 aircraft no longer existed as the aircraft was already returned to its lessors in accordance with the Amended and Restated Rehabilitation Plan of PAL; 2. Per Air Transportation Office certification, her license expired in 1998; 3. The animosity between the parties as engendered by the protracted and heated litigation; 4. The possibility that she had already secured equivalent or other employment after the significant lapse of time since the institution of the illegal dismissal case; and 5. The nature of the business of PAL which requires the continuous operations of its planes and, thus, the hiring of new pilots.
The high court said Jadie may be able to secure her separation pay upon finality of the ruling, which could still be appealed through a motion for reconsideration.
Part of her separation package, according to the court, are a separation pay equivalent to one-month salary for every year of service, backwages from June 9, 1998, longevity pay of P500 per month for every year of service, Christmas bonuses, Jadie’s “proportionate share” in PAL’s P5-million contribution to the retirement fund, and cash conversion of her unused vacation leaves and sick leaves after June 9, 1998.
The court said she would also be entitled to benefits prior to her illegal dismissal, including her unpaid salary in June 1998, productivity allowance, transportation allowance and rice subsidy from May to June 8, 1998.
“All monetary awards due Jadie shall earn interest of 6 percent per annum from date of finality of this decision until fully paid,” the court said.
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