EVA Air, union negotiations stall due to lack of trust

05/24/2019 11:35 PM
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Taipei, May 24 (CNA) Talks between EVA Air and the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU) over flight attendant pay and work hours and corporate governance issues failed to reach common ground on Friday after both sides accused each other of acting in bad faith.

Following a meeting delayed by two hours due to squabbling over whether it should be broadcast live, the union said the airline addressed very few of its demands.

The management's proposals were basically the same as those discussed during their last round of negotiations in April, which broke down and prompted a vote on whether EVA flight attendants should go on strike, a TFAU representative said.

Despite the disappointing outcome, the two sides agreed to meet again on May 29.

On the pay issue, EVA refused to raise allowances for EVA Air flight attendants when off work in overseas destinations from NT$90 (US$3) to NT$150 per hour per flight, said TFAU Deputy Secretary-General Chou Sheng-kai (周聖凱).

The airline is also reluctant to adjust the operations of nine round-trip flights that the union sees as "overwork flights."

The flight duty period on those flights often exceeds 12 hours, the maximum work hours allowed in a single shift under the Labor Standards Act, and the union wants flight attendants to get more rest, he said.

The TFAU is asking that flight crews work only one way on those routes and rest overnight rather than working both legs of a round-trip flight on the same day to avoid fatigue.

Among the routes cited as meeting that criteria are flights connecting Taiwan and Tokyo, Beijing, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Harbin, Shenyang and Hohhot, but EVA Air was only willing to show flexibility on some flights, Chou said.

The union is mostly concerned about flights between Taiwan and Tokyo, Beijing and Phnom Penh because they account for more than half of the overwork flights, it has said previously.

During the negotiations, EVA has agreed with the union's proposal on one of the three flights between Taiwan and Tokyo Narita and one between Taoyuan and Beijing on a trial basis, subject to seasonal considerations, Chou said.

For Taoyuan-Phnom Penh flights, the carrier agreed that flight attendants could voluntarily choose to fly only that route during a particular month in exchange for more days off.

"We had already tentatively agreed on those particular flights in our April meeting -- a result that was far from our expectations, which is why we brought the whole package to the table again," Chou said.

On corporate governance, EVA disappointed the union again, Chou said, as it only agreed that there could be union representatives included on its committee that evaluates employee performance, but it refused to grant them the right to participate in discussions and vote.

EVA also did not accept the union's appeal to introduce either an independent director or similar positions to better protect labor rights, he said.

In response, EVA Air said in a statement that most employee benefits being challenged by the union are already better than at other airlines.

It said the carrier is willing to consider giving the flight attendants greater benefits, but refused a "no free ride" proposal by the union, explaining that it would result in unequal treatment for flight attendants.

The "no free ride" proposal refers to the union's demand that only union members would be given the higher hourly overseas allowances they want while non-union members would not be eligible.

The airline also argued that the idea would jeopardize flight safety and the quality of service.

On several issues involving corporate governance, EVA Air said it could be problematic because it contravenes the company's current operating framework established by its shareholders, and will require further discussions.

Meanwhile, TFAU Secretary-General Cheng Ya-ling (鄭雅菱) said the union has already collected votes from 80 percent of its 3,200 EVA members.

For the vote to go on strike to pass, the union has said it would require the backing of 80 percent of the EVA Air union members and the approval of more than half of the union's 5,930 members who work for EVA, China Airlines (CAL) and other smaller carriers.

The vote for EVA flight attendants will end on May 26, followed by votes from other airline members between May 27 and June 6.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)


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