Unions Threaten to Strike after Flight Attendants’ Success

Unions Threaten to Strike after Flight Attendants’ Success
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

The strike by China Airline flight attendants ended after management agreed to employee demands. Now more unions are threatening to strike.

The success of the China Airlines (CAL) flight attendants' strike in Taiwan last week, which caused delays for thousands of travelers, is now inspiring similar actions by other labor unions.

The strike has already spurred employees from other companies and unions, including Mandarin Airlines, Chunghwa Post Workers’ Union and Chunghwa Telecom Workers’ Union, to prepare their own strikes, say Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恒) and Democratic Progressivre Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀).

Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) says his ministry and the Ministry of Labor will review labor policies and work to strike a balance between the benefits of management and employees.

Last week’s strike by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union and CAL flight attendants sparked a sit-in in downtown Taipei, a flurry of local media coverage, the sacking of the airline’s chairperson, and a four-and-a-half-hour round of negotiations. CAL conceded to the seven demands made by the union and flight attendants.

However, the China Airlines Union says that management should also have taken the 9,000 ground crew into account, and is now demanding the company implement improved working conditions for its members.

Ko Tso-liang (葛作亮), director of China Airlines Union, says the union is disappointed by the fact that the company reached the agreement with Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union without including the much larger China Airlines Union.

“The company just wanted to end the strike as soon as possible. It ignored the rights of the other 9,000 employees who are not flight attendants,” Ko says.

If the company does not agree to its demands, the union says it will consider uniting its other six branches, including pilots and engineers, to go on a strike.

The Mandarin Airlines Union is also threatening to call a strike.

Wu Yen-hsien (吳彥賢), director of the Mandarin Airlines Union, says that while the airline is a subsidiary of the China Airlines group, its employees do not benefit from the new post-strike arrangements, and are working in unacceptable conditions. He says the union will negotiate with the company next month, and if the management does not respond, it too will launch a strike.

The demands made by the CAL flight attendents included: an increase of overseas flight subsidy from US$2 per hour to US$5; a guarantee of 123 annual holidays instead of the current 118 days; allowing the dissolution of agreements by individual flight attendants to work more overtime than normally allowed under the Labor Standards Act; allowing flight attendants to report for duty at Taipei International Airport (Songshan) instead of Taiwan Taoyuan. The company has put losses from the one-day action, which saw flights cancelled and thousands of passengers affected, at NT$500 million (US$15 million).

In an interview with Hitoradio on June 27, Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒), the new CAL chairman, said the strike was a well-planned campaign. CAL had failed to realize the need and requests of its employees and underestimated the potential risk of the strike, which could have been avoided. Ho believes through these events, the management should respond to employee’s concerns.

Ho also indicates that Ho Chen has ordered an investigation to find out who is responsible for the issue, which Ho will cooperate with the government on.

Lin Hsin-yi (林馨怡), spokesperson for CAL strike campaign, told PTS News Network that she didn’t feel she had basic human rights as an employee at CAL and that calling a strike was necessary to bring attention to the issue.

She says CAL did not take workers’ requests seriously, even after the labor dispute case was taken to the arbitration process - the company depicted the campaigners as “traitors” of CAL. Through the strike campaign, the union and flight attendants have realized that they should not fear fighting for their own rights.

DPP Legislator Cheng Yung-peng (鄭運鵬) says that even though CAL has a new chair, Ho, and president of operations, Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙), its board mostly remains the same.

Since some positions on the board were given as rewards for past political service, Cheng recommends having foreign experts on the board will help prevent future labor disputes.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang