Saturday, June 25, 2016

AIRLINE STRIKE: CAL, union reach deal to end action

AIRLINE STRIKE: CAL, union reach deal to end action

CONCESSIONS:The CAL chairman told flight attendants that there would be no settling of scores and the company would review conditions

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Passengers throng the China Airlines counter at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday as the airline’s flights were canceled due to a strike by flight attendants.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

A preliminary agreement between China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空) and the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union was reached last night to end the union’s strike, with the firm agreeing to demands for new holiday and working hour guarantees, along with extra pay for overseas stationing.
Following five hours of negotiations between the two sides at the Ministry of Labor, Deputy Minister of Labor Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) announced that they had reached a preliminary consensus, including increasing extra pay for overseas stationing from US$3 to US$5 per hour, with agreement terms stipulating that only union members would receive the increase.
The firm also agreed to drop requirements that flight attendants sign agreements to allow increases in overtime hours, while also agreeing to new holiday guarantees and increased holiday pay.
Negotiations over agreement wording was still being finalized at press time last night, with any agreement subject to a vote by union members.
There was no word on whether CAL flights would resume today.
The settlement followed an announcement by new CAL chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) in a speech protesting flight attendants’ actions yesterday afternoon that the company would drop a policy to have flight attendants report for work at the Taoyuan airport rather than Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport), meeting a union precondition for initiating talks.
CAL’s announcement of the new policy that began on June 1 had served as the impetus for the current strike drive, with union members maintaining that the policy would unfairly increase work hours for flight attendants who had previously reported to Songshan airport.
The strike forced massive flight cancelations yesterday with more than 20,000 passengers affected, according to company estimates.
Ho said there was substantial room for “critical examination” of the firm’s coping strategy for the strike, while promising there would be no “settling of scores” against individual union members after the strike concludes.
Ho added he hoped “to have good communications with the union” and pledged to take into consideration the rights and health of staff.
He also said that “unreasonable conditions would be reviewed” and that he would handle the strike properly, adding that it is “my [his] responsibility.”
Ho was appointed the new CAL chairman on Thursday, replacing Sun Hung-hsiang (孫洪祥), Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙), head of TACT Logistics, which is also part of the China Airlines Group, was named CAL president yesterday by Premier Lin Chuan (林全), replacing Chang Yu-hern (張有恆).
Following the union’s strike declaration on Thursday night, hundreds of flight attendants in blue vests and headbands camped out outside of China Airlines headquarters, with union tents occupying several lanes of Nanjing E Road, a major artery road.
Following an overnight vigil on Thursday, the union yesterday began instituting protests, dividing all members into three 12-hour shifts and requiring members to attend regularly or risk expulsion.
Union members turned in their passports, Taiwan Compatriot Permits and company ID cards to union officials throughout the day as part of union measures to prevent strikebreaking, wearing official union IDs around their necks to prove that their passports had been turned in.
The union also said the airline had deliberately canceled more flights than necessary.
“We are extremely apologetic to travelers for the great inconvenience, but we have to reiterate that this strike is entirely because China Airlines refused to negotiate with us,” union vice president Steven Chang (張書元) said, adding that China Airline’s decision to cancel flights was “worthless.”
The union’s decision to start the strike on Thursday was a surprise following previous statements that the action would begin next month during the peak of summer season travel.
Union leaders yesterday said that their main consideration for choosing Thursday was the need to demonstrate their resolve to fight for member rights following the leadership changes, which saw Lin appoint Ho, a former Taoyuan Metro Corp chairman, as CAL’s new chairman.
“This is the moment when we have to force the government to take a stance, particular because the firm’s new board will meet today,” union director (理事) Anderson Shen (沈家源) said, adding that the date was not intended to take advantage of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) first overseas trip yesterday.
The Ministry of Transportation is a major shareholder in CAL, which was founded by the government in 1959.
Meanwhile, Sun and Chang, who stepped down as CAL chairman and president earlier yesterday, issued a letter to the public and staff, after presiding over a shareholders’ meeting, saying that they “are insisting on the right things.”
Expressing their deepest apologies for the inconvenience caused by the strike, they said that the demands of the union were clear, but questioned whether they were fair.
They asked whether “it is fair” that in the same company flight attendants report for work at Songshan airport while ground staff have to report at the Taoyuan airport.
The company has pushed for years for its employees whose duties originate at Taoyuan airport to report for work there, the letter said, and the flight attendants are the last group to whom the practice is being applied.
“As managers, our policy must consider the feelings of all of the staff,” the letter said.
“We have continued to stress that if there were problems with the practice after a month, we would review the situation and make adjustments immediately, but the union went on strike even before the one-month period was up,” it added.
Additional reporting by CNA

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