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Cabin crew demand EVA address 'exhausting' flights issue

2018/01/21 18:54:37

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Cabin crew of Taiwanese airline EVA Airways (長榮航空) staged a sit-in Sunday to demand that the management revise duty time rules to prevent overwork among crew members, especially for the six flights considered to be the "most exhausting" shifts.

The protest came after the management of the carrier and the Ministry of Labor gave only "dismissive responses" to demands to address the issues of overwork made since August by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU), of which 58 percent of its flight attendants, or 2,700 people, are members.

As EVA Airways reported a record-high revenue of NT$163.5 billion (US$5.52 billion) in 2017, it should be able to afford the extra cost of crew members staying one more night at a flight's destination point so they can get sufficient rest before the next period of duty, said Cheng Ya-ling (鄭雅菱), a leader of the TFAU.

When the newly amended Labor Standards Act, designed mainly to increase flexibility in working hours, was debated, the government touted the provision of leeway for negotiation by which management and labor can seek consensus on overtime work, Cheng said.

However, in the case of EVA Airways, negotiation between management and labor was not able to lead to favorable results for workers, Cheng said.

"If we can't solve the issue, no other trade union in Taiwan will be able to settle labor disputes with favorable terms for workers," she added.

Dozens of flight attendants took part in the sit-in protest, which began at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Taipei offices of Evergreen Marine Corp., the sister company of EVA Airways.

The protesters held placards reading that EVA Airways "makes a large fortune" while its "crew members are being overworked to the point of burnout."

One of the placards listed the six flights which attendants said make them most exhausted. At the top was a three-day assignment to fly from Taipei to San Francisco and make the return flight with a rest period of just 28 hours.

It is a longstanding issue that flight attendants are not given needed rest time between shifts, but the complaints made by unions in negotiations with management and with the Ministry of Labor have gone nowhere, Lee Ying (李瀅), a TFAU executive, said.

Lee said that company's management in October decided to shorten the flight duty period for the Taipei-San Francisco flight from a four- or five-day shift to a three-day shift after it began operating an additional flight per week on the route.

"We are worried that the management will do the same if it operates more flights to other cities in the United States," Lee said.

The unions demanded that the three-day duty period for flights between Taipei to Brisbane be extended to five days.

They also demanded that the one-day duty period for flights between Taipei and Tokyo, Kaohsiung and Tokyo, Taipei and Beijing be extended to two days.

In response, EVA issued a statement saying that the duty time rules set by the carrier are above the standards prescribed under related laws and regulations and that it hopes to continue negotiations with the unions.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)