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Pilots to announce strike date on Aug. 20 if no deal reached

2018/08/07 18:47:58

Taipei, Aug. 7 (CNA) The Pilots Union Taoyuan will announce a strike date on Aug. 20 if China Airlines (CAL) and EVA Airways do not offer their pilots better working conditions by then, the union said Tuesday after its members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike.

Should a strike occur, it would be the first time in Taiwan's history that airline pilots have staged a walkout.

Around 99 percent of the CAL pilots and 97 percent of the EVA Air pilots who cast ballots voted in favor of a strike in the wake of unsuccessful negotiations with management, the union said, adding that it hoped to hear back from the carriers within a week.

The union and airlines have held several meetings in the past to discuss the pay issues, the pilots' time off and how days off are defined, and the two airlines' management style that are at the heart of the dispute.

Union executive director and CAL pilot Chen Hsiang-lin (陳祥麟) said airlines did not contact the union during the period from July 16 to Aug. 6 when union members could vote on the strike.

As for what happens next, Chen expected at least CAL Chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) to show up in follow-up negotiations to be mediated by the transportation and labor ministries.

The government wields influence over the airline because it controls the China Aviation Development Foundation, which is CAL's largest shareholder, but EVA Air is privately held.

"We are showing great sincerity for talks. After all, we make ends meet by working, not by striking," Chen said.

The union also asked the management not to make provocative moves, citing CAL's filing for a provisional injunction to prevent the union from going on strike before the court rules that their action is legitimate.

CAL has argued that the union's action is illegitimate because an occupational union comprising members from different companies cannot vote to decide labor actions against any single company.

The union said the provisional injunction will not affect its current plans because the court has yet to rule on the motion.

In response to the union vote, the carriers said they respected but regretted the outcome.

EVA Air said it has gone through five rounds of negotiations with union members since May 2017 and has reached consensus on several issues.

The pilots' working conditions comply with regulations set by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), and the pilots are not forced to overwork as they claim, EVA Air said.

The airline also hinted that the union may not represent its pilots, because the 542 EVA Air union members fall short of half of the 1,300 pilots employed by the carrier.

The union contends, however, that EVA Air's many foreign pilots are not counted in the formula under union-related laws and that the 542 members represent more than half of the airline's Taiwanese pilots.

CAL said it has never avoided negotiations with the union and hopes the pilots can be more flexible on pay issues and demands for extra days off because they will hurt the airline's competitiveness.

The issue of time off is particularly contentious because of disagreements over how a day off is defined.

For instance, pilots at EVA Air said they were promised 123 days off a year, but Chen contended that scheduling issues and the airline's tight definition of the term mean that pilots in some cases get as few as 90 days off a year.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)