There’s the Rub

Live and learn


Shortly after I wrote about the PAL flight attendants’ shock and awe at the Court of Appeals’ decision to roll back their retirement ages to 60 for men and 55 for women, I remembered a movie I had seen a couple of years ago that dwelled on this theme. That movie was “Made in Dagenham.” It tells of a strike by a group of women in a Ford factory in Dagenham, England. It’s one of the best movies of 2010 and should be seen not just by advocates of women’s rights and striking men and women but by everyone who believes the truth shall set you free.

It is a true story, and an inspiring one. The women of Ford Dagenham, a tiny minority of 187, sewing upholstery for the company’s cars alongside 55,000 men, decide to walk out one day to protest abysmal working conditions. The walkout soon turns into a full-blown strike after nearly everyone votes for it, which gets the support of the union. Indeed, the call for better working conditions soon turns to a call for equal pay for men and women, the women just getting a fraction of the men’s, which does not get the support of the union.

This is 1968, and the women’s demand is universally seen as unreasonable. It is seen as so by management which scoffs at the idea; women have always received less than men and will always receive less than men. You give them equal pay and industry would collapse. It is seen as so by their union, which regards it as too radical. Maybe equal pay for men and women will come, but it will come only in time, and 1968 was not the time. It is seen as so by their husbands who lose their paychecks as the factory decides to temporarily lay them off, and by their children who get no milk at breakfast. And it is seen as so by the public: Whoever heard of such nonsense as equal pay for men and women?

The women persevere, and the strike, catching the attention of the press more for its novelty than importance, eventually reaches Whitehall. There, the employment minister, herself a woman though a fairly conservative one, invites them over. Determined to knock some sense into them, she is instead swayed by the simplicity and force of their argument. It is the just thing to do, it is the fair thing to do. Why should women with the same skills doing the same amount of work be paid less than men?

The employment minister takes their side, agreeing immediately to add more women to the workforce and give them 92 percent of the men’s pay. Two years later, Britain passes the Equal Pay Act. Other industrial countries quickly follow suit. What began as a small protest ends as an earthshaking event.

When I saw this movie, I was amazed to realize how the concept of equal pay became a reality only in 1970. I had always thought it dated much earlier. The year, 1968, is a banner year in modern history, when epic marches and protest strikes broke out in many parts of the world—against the Vietnam War, against inequality, against imperialism. I didn’t know another revolution took place in a fairly obscure part of the world, much quieter, away from the glare of world opinion, but one which would have profounder effects. Indeed, which would prove more immensely successful.

Clearly though, its effects have not entirely reached these shores.

Arguably, PAL’s appeal and its appeal to the Court of Appeals which granted it, is not about pay but about retirement ages. But equal benefits, which equal retirement ages are part of, are just as vital as equal pay and strike at the heart of fairness and justice. Why should women have less labor benefits than men? Why should PAL’s women flight attendants have earlier retirement ages than men?

The courts can go through all sorts of legal contortions to justify the unjustifiable, but at bottom that’s what it comes down to. It is a gender issue. It is an equal-work-equal-pay issue, “pay” in its larger sense. It is a discrimination issue. There is no medical finding that says women are less durable than men in carrying out flight attendant duties. There’s no scientific finding that says women compromise air safety by staying in the air for a far longer time than men. Certainly, there’s no psychological finding that says women get crabbier, or testier, or ruder to passengers at past 55. If anything, they can always argue that maternal instincts make them more maaruga than men, though that would be a specious argument too.

There’s simply no getting around it. What makes PAL’s appeal for the courts to scrap Luzviminda Baldoz’s enlightened and already belated decision to equalize the retirement ages of flight attendants to 60 even more unfair is the composition of the flight attendants. The Dagenham women were only 187 compared to 55,000 men, PAL’s flight attendants outnumber the men by 70 percent to 30 percent. That’s a more patent case of iniquity, in quantity at least if not in quality.

I’m glad the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines is making a fuss over this. Some things are worth making a fuss over, whether they create earthshaking ripples or not. Some things are self-evident, even if they are not readily evident to the nagbubulag-bulagan. Fairness is one of them. Decency is another.

While at this, some things do have happy endings. In the Dagenham case, despite Ford’s threats that it would pull out of Britain if its government didn’t scuttle the strike, despite its warnings that industry would buckle under if men and women got equal treatment, nothing of the kind happened. Industry did not fall, it rose. And Ford did not pull out, it continued to make money after Britain and other countries passed the Equal Pay Law. Indeed, quite ironically, soon after this, Ford itself began to change its labor policies and is now widely regarded as an example of a good-practice employer.

PAL may wish to learn from that.

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  • parengtony

    Before the current PAL management invested into PAL, “plantsado na” lahat ng legal issues ng Pal vs employees including the billion peso back pay issue with FASAP.

  • kayanatwo


    nobody asked me, but…can “juana dela cruz” by now hopes that the PAL issues of gender and age discrimination practice would set precedence to correct the unfair prevailing labor and hiring conditions in her place of works????

    our country’s work forces are a male dominated society that helped to perpetuate the unfair treatments of female co-workers. unless our national govt. made a concrete efforts to curb the gender and age discrimination in all working places, rest assure, juana dela cruz would be treated like a “second class citizen” as usual.

    • Fulpol

      I think, that depends on the dominant industry in the Philippines.. which I believed is the service industry.. bank and finance, BPO, call centers, tourism and so on..

      women are employed more than men.. even in the manufacturing like semiconductor, they prefer women than men..

      and they are all equally treated with men in terms of working condition, benefits, wages and other incentives..

      and now, more women are holding top positions, formerly dominated by men.

  • josh_alexei

    And in l982 upon Repatriation of the British North America Act of l867, the Administration of then Liberal PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau etched that EQUALITY in Section 15 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and brought about the legislation of Equal Pay for work of Equal value and that Very Important Section which was the basis for Striking Out the Law of Marriage which gave only the Benefits and Protection of the Law to the Union of MAN and WOMAN sounds like this Sec 15..(1) .Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection of the law without DISRIMINATION and, in particular, without Discrimination based on race, national, or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.(2) Subjection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of the disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, Sex, age or mental or physical disability…n.b…recent Courts Rulings now include among the groups those that are of different Sexual Orientation…

    • Antenor F Cevallos

      Sino si Trudeau? Anong kinalaman niya sa Pilipinas? Saan yang British North America?

      • josh_alexei

        Thanks for the Inquiry (as in Inquirer) CDQ started the discussion in Dagenham, England which is very Far far away, but that story landed in shores of every land across the planet except as he was wondering the Phl and Trudeau was just like Erap when it comes to Women except that he made sure he was not married while doing his Womanizing and also in one issue that can be easily observed, he was exactly Erap’s opposite in matter of Intellect. BNA is no longer in existence, it was just an Act creating a Nation. I knew that you know, and that is the relation, the topic under discussion.

      • Antenor F Cevallos

        Hindi ko po alam yang mga yan. Pasensya na po. HIndi po ako nakaaral ng mataas. Lumuluhod po ako sa inyo.

  • nes911

    So why not make a movie out of this pal case too to attact attention? Any willing producer?

    • vince_bugaboo

      Caparas is willing, but he’s a pariah right now.

      • WeAry_Bat

        the pal case is not a massacre movie, oh my glad.

    • yaonglaan

      ito ganitong issues sana ang gawing films kaya lang suntok sa buwan to tiyak ang kikita e yung gasgas na mahirap naging katulong na mayaman pala tapos ampon magkapatid nahiwalay et al

  • Fulpol

    retirement age..

    I was wondering why soldiers and policemen retire earlier compare to other government employees.. 56 years old compare to 65 years old mandatory retirement.. 9 years gap..

    perhaps, because of mental and physical deterioration due to stressful jobs especially for soldiers who were in regular or sporadic combat.

    and soldiers and policemen didn’t complain about early retiring… pero sayang naman yung 9 years na kikitain pa nila, bilang productive gov’t employees.. at sayang naman yun chance na magagamit pa sila ng gov’t base sa kanilang skills at experience kumpara naman sa mga bago at batang hired soldiers and policemen. but they didn’t complain even if the gov’t has a plan to extend their retirement age..

    this is opposite to CDQ’s position regarding PAL female flight attendants.. soldiers and policemen have deteriorated mental and physical condition that hampers them in executing their job.. what about those female flight attendants?

    55 to 60, a 5 year gap.. what is the difference? perhaps, the company could save more.. because as the statistics says, 70 percent were women.. huge employees coming from female side..

    CDQ says, retirement age is discriminatory.. how about hiring? why they hired more female than male?? isn’t that discriminatory?

    the company helped the female sector by employing them more, isn’t it fair that PAL could also get more economical benefits by imposing early retirement to them compare to male attendants?

    other gov’t employees would ask, “why you allowed soldiers and policemen to retire early? how about us?” it’s the nature of job.. fair? yes..

    “why not equal retirement age of female and male flight attendants”? it’s the company’s revenue who employed more women than men.. fair?.. yes..

    what is the best advocacy of those women should be: we accept early retirement but maintain the ratio of employment: 70 for women and 30 for men.. good deal.. give other women the chance..

  • Isagani Gatmaitan

    England 1968…. Philippines 2013…. 45 years of catching up to a more enlightened social policy

    • walapadintatalosaalaska

      enlightened? the brits are as corrupt as the americans.

  • saffronegg

    well said, Conrado. i got to watch that movie too… with PAL Execs. I’ll berate them right after the movie.

  • philcitizen

    I can almost imagine what the PAL executives are thinking: “Who are you to lecture us?”

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