By Rey Panaligan
The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the validity of the Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) rule on the retirement age for its flight attendants at 55 years old for female and 60 years old for male.
In a decision written by Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez, the CA pointed out the biological difference between male and female and how it would affect their performance to guarantee the safety of passengers.
It said the prime task of a flight attendant is not limited to serving meals or attending to the whims and caprices of passengers but to look after the safety of passengers and 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,” it pointed out.
With the ruling, the CA reversed the 2015 decision of the Makati City regional trial court (RTC) which nullified for being discriminatory Section 144 of the 2000-2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between PAL and the members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP).
Section 144 of the PAL-FASAP CBA imposed a compulsory retirement age of 55 for female flight attendants and 60 for male flight attendants.
Granting PAL’s petition, the CA ruled that the provision on retirement age is valid and binding.
It said the early retirement for female flight attendants does not place them at great disadvantage compare to their male counterparts and, instead, would them “a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes and restore a well-balanced life.”
It said early retirement will give the female flight attendants “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.
On top of the safety issues inside an aircraft, the CA said PAL’s rule on early retirement was in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code which 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.”
It said PAL’s provision on retirement age for male and female flight attendants is not new.
It said that in the CBAs for the years 1972-1975, 1976-1978, and 1979-1980, the compulsory retirement age was mutually agreed upon at 35 years for female flight attendants and 45 years for male attendants; in 1982-1985 CBA, the compulsory retirement age was increased to 45 for female flight attendants and 55 for male flight attendants; in 1986-1988 and 199-1995 CBA, the compulsory retirement age was 55 years for female flight attendants and 60 for their male counterparts; in the 1995-2000 and 2000-2005 CBA, 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,” it added.