Manila: Philippine Airlines (PAL) has rejected an offer from its striking employees to return to work even as disruptions in flight schedules continue to weigh down the flag carrier.

In a statement, Jaime Bautista, president and chief operating officer of PAL, said the flag carrier is determined to see the airline through the difficult transition phase with the help of its new service providers and "corps of volunteers."

"PAL is slowly returning to normalcy, thanks to the selfless dedication of our admin volunteers and the help of our service providers," Bautista said. 
He assured PAL passengers that from the current 70 per cent, the airline's flights will be back to pre-strike levels in the next few weeks. 

The flag carrier had been beset by one labour problem to another in recent years as the industry undergoes successive shakedowns.

Recently, PAL was forced to spin off three of its important business units to independent contractors as it streamlines its operations. The carrier 2,600 of its employeees will be laid off as a result.

"As of midnight October 1, workers in our catering, ground handling and call centre reservations units have ceased to be PAL employees. Hence, they have no right to demand or tell the airline how to run its business," Bautista stressed. 

Bautista was referring to the leaders of the airlines' labour union, the PAL Employees Association (PALEA) which started a wildcat strike last September 27. The labour protest resulted in disruption of PAL's scheduled international as well as domestic flights.

"Gerry Rivera and Bong Palad have also ceased to be PAL employees and are, therefore, no longer recognised by PAL as leaders of the PALEA. They have no authority to negotiate for and in behalf of PAL workers," Bautista said

He said said there's no turning back on the airline's outsourcing. 

Bautista said its service providers are doing their best to hire skilled workers to fill part of the vacuum left by its former personnel. 

President Benigno Aquino had approved a plan by PAL to lay-off its 2,600 workers on the premise that they will be rehired under the new business units that will result from the spin-off. However, given the dire developments, the striking union members may have been better off accepting the offer.

"We must understand that they were required by the labour department and the presidential palace to absorb all former PAL employees. Now that these workers have shown that they're not interested, the service providers are working double-time to recruit the people they need," he said.

Considered as Asia's "first airline," PAL lost its shine after it lost its monopoly on domestic routes during the late early 1990s.

Its prospects towards recovery even worsened after Aquino recently issued a presidential directive opening its routes to more foreign carriers.

Aquino last March, issued Executive Order 28 and 29, which implented the so-called "open skies" policy while spurring healty competition for improved services and competitive air fares.

The President's objective in issuing the open skies polity was to improve tourism to the country, an archipelago with hundreds of travel destinations awaiting to be developed.