Progress made in CAL labor-management talks, but deal elusive
Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) China Airlines (CAL), one of Taiwan's two leading international carriers, agreed in talks conducted early Wednesday morning to some of its pilots union's demands on staffing to prevent overwork, but no deal was reached to end the pilots' strike.
CAL and the Pilots Union Taoyuan began a third round of negotiations at 1 a.m. Wednesday in an attempt to bring a pilot strike that started Feb. 8 to an end.
More than 600 pilots have joined the action, which has forced CAL to cancel more than 100 flights so far, affecting more than 20,000 passengers.
As of 8 a.m. in the ongoing marathon talks, CAL's management had agreed to assign more pilots on five of the 10 routes that the union identified as potentially compromising flight safety because they left pilots vulnerable to fatigue.
The consensus represented progress from an earlier consensus between the airline and the pilots union earlier Wednesday morning to boost manpower on two of the routes identified by the union.
The main sticking point between CAL and its pilots are how regional and long-haul flights are staffed and how many hours constitute "overwork."
Agreement was already reached to meet the union's demand for at least three pilots on flights of eight hours and four pilots on flights of over 12 hours, but the union then pressed for three-man crews for flights of between seven and eight hours.
In the overnight talks, the union set that demand aside to focus on 10 specific routes that it felt were particularly hard on pilots.
CAL President Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙) agreed to meet the union's demands on five of the routes.
He agreed to assign three pilots to the Anchorage-New York, Taiwan-Palau, and Taiwan-Xian routes and four pilots to red-eye cargo flights between Taiwan and Chongqing.
Rather than adding a third pilot on the Taipei-Guam route, the airline agreed to allow two-pilot crews to rest overnight in Guam rather than having them fly both legs of the round trip on the same day, as is the case at present.
But CAL and the union did not reached any agreement on assigning three pilots on the Anchorage-Chicago route and on round trips on the Taiwan-Bangkok, Taiwan-Beijing, Taiwan-Phnom Penh, and Taiwan-Tokyo routes.
CAL's management cited a lack of manpower and the need to keep operating costs under control to reject the union's demand to assign three pilots to the other five routes.
It also questioned whether some of the routes identified on the union's wish list were in fact routes that were particularly tiring to pilots.
The talks, which were open to the media, continued into Wednesday morning to discuss other union demands on improving co-pilot promotion, the hiring of foreign pilots, a removal of incompetent executives, and bonuses.
CAL's management and the pilots union decided to launch the late-night talks in a bid to salvage the situation after two previous rounds of negotiations broke down.
Pilots Union Taoyuan Chairperson Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕) said the strike will not be terminated unless the union and CAL sign an agreement on the demands proposed by pilots.
Commenting on the current talks, Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that as long as the two sides are willing to hold a dialogue, an agreement to resolve the dispute is possible.
Lin said he believed both CAL and its pilots want to protect the benefits of passengers by prioritizing flight safety.
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