What you need to know
The result of a vote held by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants' Union is allowing China Airlines flight attendants to legally strike.
China Airlines employees are officially going on strike starting midnight on June 24. The strike will take place in front of China Airlines office in Taipei, and all flights out of Taipei Songshan Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport will be cancelled.
[6/23 UPDATE ENDS]
On June 21 the Taoyuan Flight Attendants' Union (TFAU), whose 2,638 members are flight attendants with China Airlines, held a vote to decide whether to call a strike. A stunning 96% of the 2,638 union members participated in the vote, with 99% supporting a strike.
The result was not only far beyond the legal standard of at least 50% of votes, but also surpassed the 70% standard set by the union. This legally allows flight attendants to strike; the strike is expected to being this month or in July, but an exact date has not been confirmed.
A netizen pointed out that according to the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes, if the local government considers the dispute serious enough to affect the livelihood and interests of the public, it may hand over the conflict to compulsory arbitration, also known as "the guillotine" for strikes.
In a Facebook post on June 22, Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) promised not to bring the dispute to compulsory arbitration. Cheng hopes that China Airlines will continue to negotiate and reach a consensus with its employees.
While China Airlines has questioned the validity of the vote, Cheng said the Taoyuan City Government had monitored the voting process.
[6/22 UPDATE ENDS]
China Airlines flight attendants are protesting against unreasonable work contracts. They do not rule out the possibility of going on strike if the Ministry of Labor does take action against the company.
It is said at 12:30 am on May 5, China Airlines sent text messages to all its flight attendants requesting them to sign agreements pertaining to Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act that exempts certain industries from working hour restrictions. The company is also asking them to report to work at Taoyuan International Airport other than Songshan Airport, and the additional commuting time is said to cut back the resting time the flight attendants have.
Over 60% of the flight attendants have stated they refuse to sign the agreements, and the Taoyuan Flight Attendants' Union (TFAU) has received nearly 1,900 complaints from China Airlines staff regarding the company’s request. On May 13, around 150 employees also protested in front of the Ministry of Labor, asking authorities to take action.
China Airlines states that it has already received notification from the Taoyuan City Government on May 6, and it will continue to negotiate with the flight attendants.
The Ministry of Labor says that if China Airlines wishes to make changes to the work contracts, the company should proactively negotiate with employees and related unions to prevent disputes over salaries. Regarding Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act, the ministry says that related regulations state that employers and employees can agree on different working hours, but the working time cannot harm the health and wellbeing of the employees. Local authorities also need to verify the written contract for it to be effective.
This is not the first time flight attendants in Taiwan have protested against unreasonable work regulations.
Last November, hundreds of flight attendants gathered in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to protest against extreme additional working hours.
The Labor Standards Act stipulates a monthly maximum of 168 working hours, but an air crew member has to work 230 duty hours for 30 consecutive days and the in-flight resting hours do not count as duty hours.