The union of China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空), the nation’s largest airline company, yesterday announced that its members would “go on leave” on Friday after talks with management earlier in the day failed to reach a conclusion.
That could mean the airline is hit by a another strike, this time at the start of the summer travel season, after similar action by CAL flight attendants paralyzed most of the airline’s flights on Friday and Saturday.
Members of the China Airlines Employees Union, which covers ground staff, pilots, maintenance workers and other China Airlines employees, are seeking some of the same benefits won by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union on Friday.
The China Airlines Employees Union demands that the airline restore the long-frozen annual seniority-based raises and backpay accrued during the seniority freeze.
It also demands that the commuting hours of all CAL employees be included in the calculation of their work hours, that the travel allowance for all pilots and cabin crew members be raised to US$5 per hour, that the subsidy for ground staff members be increased, and that their number of annual holidays be increased from 118 to 123 days.
Other requests include increasing benefits and other remuneration for hourly-paid workers, increasing the subsidy for professional certificates and providing lodging and transportation to employees assigned to work in a foreign country, while maintaining their subsidies.
The China Airlines Employees Union’s first round of negotiations with new CAL chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) yesterday appeared to have gone badly, with the talks beginning at 10am and ending at 3:30pm, with three breaks called to calm participants, which did not seem to have the desired effect.
Before the negotiations began, union representatives took offense at Ho’s tardiness and responded by pounding the table when he appeared 15 minutes late.
Following hours of heated exchanges, the first round of negotiations closed without reaching consensus on any of the eight union demands.
The negotiations broke down after Ho asked the union to allow him to respond to the requests in two weeks’ time, which was rejected.
Ho, who assumed the post on Thursday last week, said he had not seen the demands before yesterday, and as a result could not “give yes or no answers to them at the present time.”
“Some of these demands are essay questions instead of yes or no questions, which makes it impossible for me to say yes or no on the spot,” he said.
Union representatives said that they had forwarded their list of demands last week, to which Ho said he would have preferred “a final list, not a rough one. I cannot be expected to respond or discuss a rough [draft] list.”
A union representative asked why Ho was able to respond to the demands of the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union within three or four days’ time without consulting the balance sheets.
Ho said he had received information about the flight attendants’ strike prior to taking office, and that estimates of the costs had been calculated beforehand.
CAL was founded with government funds in 1959 and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications remains a major shareholder.
Separately yesterday, the Employees’ Union of Mandarin Airlines, (華信航空) CAL’s subsidiary, also threatened to strike if the company fails to answer its demand for the same wages and subsidies for its flight attendants as those received by CAL flight attendants.