Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Strikers should be required to give notice

By Jeffery Lin 林清淵

By abruptly announcing in the early hours of Feb. 8 that a pilot strike would start at 6am that day, the Taoyuan Union of Pilots gave China Airlines (CAL) no time to adjust its labor deployment, nor did it give the thousands of travelers flying with CAL, travel agencies or insurance companies any time to respond.

The sudden strike launched during the Lunar New Year transportation rush has sparked debate over whether Taiwan should amend the law to require advance notice before workers can go on strike.

Following the CAL flight attendant strike in 2016, the Control Yuan asked the Ministry of Labor whether a notice period should be required, and the Consumers’ Foundation and Kaohsiung Association of Travel Agents recently called for mandatory warnings before a strike, a proposal that was endorsed by most companies, travelers and some legislators.

Although advance notice could reduce the consequences for third parties, it could also reduce unions’ bargaining power, which is why most workers, the ministry and academics are either opposed to or have reservations about the idea.

According to Article 54 of the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes (勞資爭議處理法), teachers, and staff at the Ministry of National Defense, its agencies and academies are not allowed to strike.

“For the following types of businesses which may have impacts on the safety of public lives, national security or essential public interests, a labor union may call a strike only when the labor union and its counterpart have reached a minimal service clause: 1. Water supply businesses. 2. Power and fuel supply businesses. 3. Hospitals. 4. Certain Financial information service businesses,” the act states.

“A labor union may call a strike for Type I telecommunication businesses which provide fixed or mobile telecommunication service, unless that the basic voice telecommunication service can be maintained without interruption... When a great disaster happens or may happen, government at all levels for carrying out disaster prevention duties or undertaking actions to deal with an emergency in accordance with the Disaster Prevention Act [災害防救法] may prohibit, restrain, or stop a strike during the period of handling the disaster,” it states.

Why are there no such limitations on the public transportation industry, which affects essential public interests?

If the Taoyuan Union of Pilots is allowed to call a sudden strike that hurts travelers, travel agencies and insurance companies, could it not create a vicious cycle, as strikes spread to other businesses in the public transportation industry, such as other airlines, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, the Taiwan Railways Administration and bus companies?

The labor ministry should follow the example of other countries and amend the act to require that public transportation workers give notice before they go on strikes that could hurt third parties.

If unions cause interruptions by giving notice, canceling the strike and then launching it again, a clause requiring workers not to hold another strike for half a year could even be added.

This would protect third parties, who would not become bargaining chips used by unions against management. With rational strike appeals it would also be easier for unions to gain social sympathy and acceptance of their demands.

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