Taipei, July 31 (CNA) Representatives from eight Taiwanese unions called Wednesday for adjustments to the current labor laws to better protect workers' rights in the wake of a strike by EVA Air flight attendants that began in June.
The strike, which affected some 300,000 passengers, led to heated debates about whether strikers should give "reasonable advance notice" to the airline to reduce the impact on passengers, but union leaders argued in a press conference that such discussions are missing the point.
"Demanding a heads-up from the unions will not help solve the problem and will instead reduce labor's bargaining power and result in an even worse work environment," said Chen Chin-hsuan (陳景瑄), secretary of the Federation of Aviation Employees.
Yeh Chin-yu (葉瑾瑜), secretary-general of the Taoyuan Confederation of Trade Unions (TYCTU), urged the government to revise the three laws that protect the basic rights of workers -- the Labor Union Act, the Collective Agreement Act and the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes.
There are various improvements that should be made, the most important being a relaxation on the organization of labor unions, Yeh said.
Under the current law, a union should be organized by at least 30 workers, a high standard that leaves 60 percent of Taiwan's 11 million workers unable to join a union, as the majority of Taiwanese businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises, she said.
Yeh said the government should lower the threshold for the establishment of a union to approval from either 15 workers or one- third of the total number of employees.
That greater empowerment for workers should apply to the range of disputes that could constitute a strike, she added.
According to the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes, striking is not allowed for "rights disputes" -- meaning those that cover the rights and obligations under the law, regulations, collective agreements, or labor contracts between employers and workers -- because they should be solved through legal action.
Currently, a strike is only lawful for failure to settle "interest disputes" -- meaning those between employers and workers with respect to maintaining or changing the terms and conditions of employment.
Yeh said the act should also cover "rights disputes" as a lawful factor for a strike, explaining that while most disputes fall into this category, solutions are rarely found because workers are at a huge disadvantage if they want to take legal action against their employers.