Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 1 News List

MOTC offers pilots’ union compromise

MIDDLE GROUND:CAL has already agreed to dispatch more pilots and regional flights should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, the transport ministry said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Returning passengers line up at immigration at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has offered the Taoyuan Union of Pilots a third path to consider in dealing with fatigue among China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空) pilots, it said yesterday, adding that it would keep its doors open for negotiations as the pilots’ strike continued for a third day.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) made the announcement at the conclusion of an emergency response meeting held after the airline and union failed to reach an agreement on how to resolve pilot fatigue during six hours of negotiations on Saturday.

The airline’s management agreed to dispatch three pilots when the expected flight time exceeds eight hours, but the union said that the limit should be set at seven hours.

The company said the union’s proposal would be hard to implement, as many regional routes have flight times of between seven and eight hours and it would not have enough pilots to dispatch on those flights, Wang said.

The ministry proposed that the union and airline jointly review all flights between six and eight hours, Wang said.

On routes that include greater risks, such as difficult landing procedures, the company should dispatch three pilots, he said, adding that the number could be adjusted according to seasonal factors.

The airline made a big concession by agreeing to dispatch four pilots if flight time exceeds 12 hours, down from 13 hours, Wang said.

If CAL adopts the ministry’s proposal, it would have a better fatigue management mechanism than EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空), he added.

EVA last year agreed to employ four pilots on flights of more than 12 hours on a case-by-case basis.

Wang said he had contacted union chairwoman Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕), an EVA pilot, and expressed his hope for more negotiations.

Lee told him that the union would only return to the negotiation table if the company agrees to dispatch three pilots on flights exceeding seven hours, he said.

“I have told the union that it needs to consider whether the airline could scramble enough pilots to meet its demands,” Wang said. “If they know that their proposals are not feasible, then they should consider the ministry’s proposal, rather than insisting on their own seven-hour rule.”

CAL has promised to compensate travel agencies and independent travelers for expenses on food and accommodation due to the strike after a request by Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).

Lee said that the union had received more than 500 pilots’ certificates from CAL’s 1,400 pilots.

Asked when the union would resume negotiations with the airline, Lee said that it was still waiting for a response from the company.

The union had dropped its demand that the number of pilots be determined based on flight duty period (FDP), which includes time in the air, as well as preparations before takeoff, Lee said, adding that instead, the union has agreed to use flight time as the reference.

“The company should not focus on meeting only the minimum legal requirements. Instead, it should factor in the actual fatigue experienced by the pilots who operate flights,” Lee said.

CAL previously claimed that it had enough pilots, but now it says it has a shortage of pilots, Lee said, adding that the conflicting statements show the company has serious management issues.

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