My Opinion: "Sweetheart" CAL union urges concessions, threatens strike
Editor's Note: The Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU) was formed with the help of a thirty-year China Airlines retiree when the "sweetheart" China Airlines Employees Union (CAEU) did nothing to stem the downturn in employees salary and increase in their workload. For example, in 1996, flight attendants earned between 70-80,000 NT a month ($2335-$2666 us) while their workload has gone from 60-90 hours a month to 75-120 hours a month. Despite displeasure, the CAEU, formed by KMT as an official government union whose leaders are indebted to and loyal to management, no strike work action was ever promoted. The flight attendants, whose ratio of one per twenty-five airborne passengers twenty years ago was extended over the years to fifty passengers each; where it stands now. In a typical example of layover time between assignments, the New Zealand to Taoyuan run, which allowed for a ten day stay was reduced to a twenty-four hour layover, barely enough time to rest and prepare for the next flight, a flight that can be twenty hours long with one stop-over.
The CAEU has lost face with the 8,000 employees they claim to represent and are publicly demanding better working conditions for workers they have not lifted a finger for in the past. That being said, if the TFAU action has cause the "sweetheart" CAEU to finally demand reversal of eroded benefits for all China Airline employees, that is good, though suspect. Most non-flight attendant China Airline employees still get their job through KMT connections.
The hope is that the action and victory of the TFAU can spread to other airline workers; EVA airline workers have to sign an agreement not to unionize when hired.
What would be best is industrial unionism, such as in the IWW, where all employees in a workplace show solidarity in a work action. However, with "sweetheart" unions such as the CAEU and other government sponsored dependent unions in Taiwan, a break-away from the rank and file is necessary.
CAL union urges concessions, threatens strike
By Abraham Gerber / Staff reporter
China Airlines Employees Union chairman Ko Tso-liang reads a statement at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) yesterday.
The China Airlines Employees Union yesterday issued a statement threatening a strike if China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空) does not grant its members the same concessions given to the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union late on Friday, as the company continued to struggle to find sufficient staff to operate flights before flight attendants officially return to work tomorrow after going on strike on Friday.
“The more than 8,000 ground crew members find management’s partiality for flight attendants completely unacceptable and it will create a huge backlash,” the statement said. “Management has made all those who have toiled in silence look like fools by making it seem that ‘only children who throw fits get candy.’”
The China Airlines Employees Union said it would present an official demand to the company tomorrow, threatening to take the 10,000 members of its six divisions to the streets unless its demands are met, while promising at least seven days advance notice before a strike begins.
The China Airlines Employees Union has a history of contention with the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union, which was last year established by disgruntled members of its third division to allow them to declare a strike without approval from the umbrella union.
While CAL originally said it could use ground crew members to replace flight attendants, almost all flights were canceled after the flight attendants’ strike began.
New demands by the company’s official union came after CAL agreed to almost all of the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union’s seven demands, while explicitly limiting application of the concession to members of the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union.
In addition to guaranteeing minimum yearly, seasonal and monthly days off, agreement terms drop new requirements that flight attendants report for work at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport instead of Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and allow the dissolution of agreements by individual flight attendants to work more overtime than normally allowed under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
They also provide for increases in extra hourly pay when flight attendants are stationed abroad, double pay for national holidays, 50 hours of additional time off for union officials to perform union duties each month and a new performance review system.
Specific terms broadly reflected union demands, with the exception that extra hourly increases in pay for workers stationed overseas be scheduled, first rising from US$3 to US$4 next month, with a further increase to US$5 in May next year.
Meanwhile, the segment of Taipei’s Nanjing E Road adjacent to CAL’s offices where the strike was staged was cleared by noon yesterday, with several sidewalk tables for flight attendants to pick up their passports, Taiwan compatriot permits and company identification the only evidence of the demonstration.
More than 1,700 union members handed over their passports to the union as part of measures to prevent the strike from being broken, but union flight attendants have been allowed to choose whether to work before officially returning to their posts tomorrow.
The Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union said the delayed resumption of regular working hours was necessary to give attendants adequate time to reclaim their passports and also to allow adequate rest time following their demonstration.
“Because many passports are still in the hands of the union and have not been returned to flight attendants, they cannot return to work,” CAL CEO Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙) said immediately following the conclusion of negotiations, adding that the company was in the process of determining how many flight attendants were willing and able to return to work immediately.
The airline yesterday canceled 55 of 81 flights, affecting more than 10,000 passengers, but said it would operate 100 flights today.