Thousands of travelers faced major disruptions after a pilots’ union announced a strike against China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空) yesterday morning — the first staged during a Lunar New Year holiday.
Shortly after midnight yesterday, the Taoyuan Union of Pilots said that China Airlines pilots who are union members would go on strike from 6am.
The airline, passengers and officials were taken by surprise, as many thought the union would not go on strike, because it is a peak travel period and tens of thousands of people had booked flights going abroad or returning to Taiwan.
As of noon yesterday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that the strike had affected 3,184 passengers.
China Airlines is one of the nation’s largest carriers, and the strike had an immediate effect on Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport and Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport).
Union officials held a news conference at Songshan airport in the morning, where union board director Chen Pei-pei (陳蓓蓓) said the group has not set a schedule, and if the company does not address pilots’ grievances, they would go on strike indefinitely.
Photo by Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times
The union has collected more than 200 flying certificates from member pilots, which means that they agree to the strike and have voluntarily given up their rights to operate an aircraft, she said.
“Many pilots are on vacation right now, but they will soon return home and will hand in their credentials. So the number will continue to grow. We have also received numerous calls from members expressing their support for the strike,” Chen said.
This would affect more China Airlines flights in the coming days, she said, adding that the union represents about 900, or 80 percent, of the carrier’s pilots.
Union members said that the issue of overwork was their main grievance.
“We are asking the company to remove factors that cause pilots fatigue and threaten flight safety,” union chairwoman Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕) said.
Specifically, China Airlines should assign four pilots and copilots instead of the usual three to all flights of more than 12 hours, while flights of eight hours or more should have three crew members instead of two, Lee said.
However, the airline has refused, saying that the proposed move would significantly increase the company’s operational costs and reduce its competitiveness, Lee said.
Pilots said that they have been demanding better pay, more rest hours and greater autonomy for nearly a year.
China Airlines also held a news conference, saying that the strike affected 18 flights, or 10 percent of its transport capacity.
It urged passengers not to panic, saying it would work with other airlines to send them to their destinations.
The airline said in a statement that it has never stopped negotiating with pilots and that union officials were misleading the public, because many of the demands they made in public were different from what they had told the company.
China Airlines chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) traveled to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 10am, where he thanked ground staff for doing their job and maintaining standards.
“I had asked union representatives to sit down and negotiate together, but they were not willing to do so... I still look for such a face-to-face meeting to find common ground,” Ho said.
“The pilots’ union had raised their demands, which we cannot resolve, because they involve legal issues. In a democratic country, everyone has to follow the law, and I cannot fix these legal issues by myself,” Ho said.
The China Airlines Employees Union, which represents the carrier’s workers, issued a statement urging passengers to remain rational and not direct their frustrations at ground staff, because they are not participating in the strike.
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Two US senators were critical of the WHO after a senior WHO official appeared to hang up on a Hong Kong reporter who asked about Taiwan’s membership status in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. During a video interview with Radio Television Hong Kong’s Yvonne Tong (唐若韞) on Saturday, WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward first claimed not to have heard her question on whether the WHO would consider giving Taiwan membership. When Tong repeated the question, he asked her to “move on to another one.” The video then showed the line disconnecting after Tong said she would like to hear more about Taiwan.