CA affirms retirement age rule for PAL flight attendants

MANILA The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the validity of the Philippine Airlines' (PAL) rule on the compulsory retirement age for its flight attendants.

In a 20-page decision dated last May 31, penned by Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez and concurred by Associate Justices Japar Dimaampao and Manuel Barrios, the CA's 7th Division reversed the 2015 decision of the Makati City Regional Trial Court that nullified, for being discriminatory, Section 144 of the 2000-2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between PAL and members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP).

The agreement set the retirement age for flight attendants at 55 years for females and 60 years for males.

The appellate court granted PAL's petition and declared the provision as valid and binding.

According to the CA, the early retirement age for female flight attendants is part of PAL's obligation to observe due diligence in ensuring the safety of the passengers.

Moreover, well-enshrined is the rule that employers have the prerogative to impose productivity and quality standards at work. Even more so for PAL, from which exacting standards are demanded, by virtue of its being a common carrier, it said.

The court pointed out the biological difference between males and females and how it would affect the performance of their duty to guarantee the safety of passengers.

It noted that the task of a cabin crew is not limited to serving meals or attending to the whims and caprices of the passengers.

The major task of a flight attendant, according to the CA, is to look after the safety of passengers and the evacuation of the aircraft during emergencies.

Passenger safety goes to the core of the job of a cabin attendant. Truly, airlines need cabin attendants who have the necessary strength to open emergency doors, the agility to attend to passengers in cramped working conditions, and the stamina to withstand grueling flight schedules, the court said.

It said that imposing an early retirement for female flight attendants does not place them at great disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

Instead, it said, early retirement would give them a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes and restore a well-balanced life.

Here, petitioners-appelles will have more time to spend with their families and friends, as well as the opportunity to pursue activities and hobbies that they may not have had the time to do in the past. Early retirement can also potentially improve their physical and mental health, which in turn can help them live a longer and happier life, it added.

Aside from safety issues, the CA said the provision is in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code that allow employers and employees to fix the applicable retirement age at 60 years or below, provided that the employees' retirement benefits under any CBA and other agreements shall not be less than those provided therein.

The CA did not give credence to the claim of petitioners, composed of FASAP's female flight attendants, that the provision is discriminatory in the context of gender and equal work opportunities.

Based on its review of the records, the CA said the questioned provision providing a different compulsory retirement age for male and female flight attendants is not new.

The CA noted that in the 1972-1975, 1976-1978, and 1979-198 CBAs, the compulsory retirement age was mutually agreed upon at 35 years for female flight attendants and 45 years for male attendants. In the 1982-1985 CBA, the compulsory retirement age was increased to 45 for female flight attendants and 55 for male flight attendants; and in the 1986-1988 and 199-1995 CBAs, it was further increased to 55 years for female flight attendants and 60 for their male counterparts. In the 1995-2000 and 2000-2005 CBAs, depending on the date of the hiring, the compulsory retirement age for female flight attendants was fixed at 55 years and 60 years for male flight attendants.

The questioned provision on compulsory retirement cannot be said to be void or discriminatory because FASAP was free to accept or refuse the same. But since FASAP voluntarily assented to the questioned provision, there is a reasonable presumption that it is beneficial and acceptable to its members, the CA noted. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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