By Abraham Gerber and Shelley Shan / Staff reporters
More than 200 TransAsia Airways employees yesterday protested outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei, demanding that the ministry intervene to compel the firm to negotiate directly with a newly formed union over redundancy terms.
The protest follows the unexpected announcement by the company on Tuesday that it is to be dissolved, with the airline promptly shutting down operations.
Union deputy executive director Pang Min-yi (龐閔憶) blasted the management team for refusing to recognize the newly formed union as a legitimate partner for conducting negotiations.
“We need the help of a third party to ensure that negotiations are completed swiftly,” he said.
Protesters also demanded that the company be forbidden from arbitrarily laying off workers if it manages to avoid dissolution and called for revisions to the Mass Labor Layoff Protection Act (大量解僱勞工保護法) to explicitly mandate that companies negotiate with unions rather than individual employees about redundancy packages.
The firm’s dissolution could put more than 1,700 employees out of work, many of whom have joined the company union, which was formed after the announcement on Tuesday.
Union representatives demanded that each employee be given NT$500,000 (US$15,661) on top of their regular severance pay and that the company continue to pay wages until Jan. 21 because of its obligation to provide employees with 60 days’ notice.
Lo Wen-chuan (羅文娟), an official at the Ministry of Labor, said that the ministry would work with the Taipei City Government to ensure that the negotiations be held as soon as possible.
Separately yesterday, more than half of TransAsia’s pilots joined an information session hosted by EVA Airways.
Civil Aeronautics Administration data showed that TransAsia has about 170 pilots, including those who are in training. EVA and China Airlines have agreed to recruit some of the pilots if they pass the required tests and certifications.
A pilot surnamed Yang (楊) said he had already retired from TransAsia after working for the company for 20 years, but was asked to come back after its business suffered following two plane crashes in 2014 and last year.
He said he had resumed work for less than a year when the company announced that it was shutting down.
Yang said he has mixed feelings about the company’s decision, but chose to attend the information session as part of his right as a laid-off worker.
Another pilot who requested anonymity said he used to work in the semiconductor sector, but spent about NT$2 million to attend a pilot school abroad to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
He joined TransAsia 10 months ago and was scheduled to begin flying next month.
He said he is concerned about whether EVA would recruit him. He is over 35 years old and has a family to support.
EVA Pilot Union founder Lin Shao-ming (林邵民) said that EVA has stipulated that it would accept pilots who have accumulated more than 2,000 flight hours.
However, these pilots would first be employed as copilots and can only qualify for promotion after accumulating 3,600 flight hours. They must undergo six to eight months of training in the initial stage, he said.
While almost all of TransAsia’s pilots have accumulated more than 2,000 flight hours, only about 20 of its copilots meet the minimum requirement that EVA has set, Lin said, adding that a majority of the copilots have less than 1,000 flight hours.
As EVA is short of pilots following a fleet expansion, Lin said that he does not oppose the company’s decision to recruit pilots from TransAsia.
However, EVA must not forget that 30 to 40 of its copilots are waiting to be promoted to pilots, he added.
China Airlines is scheduled to hold an information session for pilots today at TransAsia’s headquarters in Taipei.