China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空) and EVA Airways (長榮航空) pilots yesterday moved a step closer to going on strike, after Taoyuan Union of Pilots director Chen Hsiang-lin (陳祥麟) said that more than half of the union’s members from each airline have cast ballots on the issue following unsuccessful negotiations on working conditions in the nation’s two largest airlines.
Under the nation’s labor laws, a union may call a strike if half of its eligible members vote on the proposal and the majority votes in favor.
If Chen’s remark is correct, then the threshold for total votes has been met. The union represents about 800, or 70 percent, of CAL’s pilots and 500, or 50 percent, of EVA’s pilots.
The union organized the vote after negotiations with the airlines failed last month, Chen said, adding that the voting would conclude on Aug. 6.
As ballots are anonymous, members are under no pressure to save face for their employers and those who have already voted are unlikely to vote against the measure, Chen said, adding that should the vote pass, it would result in the nation’s first-ever airline pilot strike.
The union’s primary goal is not to get money, Chen said, adding that as evidenced by a 2015 strike by flight attendants, employers are more willing to negotiate once they realize the severity of the situation.
While both airlines have been in talks with the union, there has not been a significant breakthrough after a year-and-a-half of negotiations, he said.
The union could tell whether the firms were sincere at talks after the first few sessions, he added.
CAL was hesitant in the talks, because if it agreed, it would have to continue to relent to future demands, Chen said, adding that EVA’s representatives repeatedly said that they were not authorized to agree to the union’s demands.
The vote on holding a strike is to ensure that the airlines realize pilots’ determination and return to talks truly prepared to negotiate, he said.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) on Wednesday said that he supported providing advanced notice if a strike is to take place.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications would discuss the matter with the Ministry of Labor, he said.
Employers should feel empathy for their employees, Wu said, adding that his ministry understands the basis of the pilots’ demands and has asked the airlines to negotiate a solution with the pilots.
Wu called for rational dialogue between the firms and their employees, saying that should future negotiations fall through, common practice in other nations is for unions to provide a time frame for a strike to avoid jeopardizing the public interest, adding that he felt that two weeks notice would be ideal.
Minister of Labor Shih Ker-he (施克和) yesterday said that a solution that would be satisfactory and beneficial for all involved parties would be to hold trilateral meetings, adding that his ministry would help mediate talks to minimize disputes and achieve a consensus.
Additional reporting by Liao Chien-ying
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