China Airlines laundry workers strike, occupy site

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Jun 02, 2015 - Page 1

Members of the China Pacific Laundry Services Workers’ Union burst into applause late on Sunday night after they voted to go on strike by 58 to 17, following failed negotiations with the company to improve their wages and working conditions.

After the vote, the union announced that the strike was to take effect immediately and cordoned off the company premises to prevent access to laundry products.

Owned jointly by China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) — Taiwan’s largest carrier — and Swire Pacific (太古), the facilities are used to clean uniforms for flight attendants, as well as the blankets, seat covers and dining towels used on China Airlines flights.

The union sought a NT$10,000 (US$323.29) raise in monthly wages, an end to the use of short-term contractors without permission from the union and changes to charges for food and lodging taken from migrant workers.

Despite more than a decade in service, many senior employees at the firm receive a monthly wage of about NT$18,600, which is below minimum wage, the union said.

Wages at the company increased by less than NT$2,000 over the past 10 years, it added.

As of press time last night, the union’s occupation of the firm’s facilities continued, with lines of workers standing guard over the company grounds.

Tensions had escalated over the past month, with the union demanding raises after the company outsourced work to other laundry contractors, which led to a significant decrease in overtime pay.

Union secretary-general Lin Chuang-chou (林莊周) said that the company had no reason to keep wages so low because the firm recorded profits of more than NT$50 million last year.

He added that the company should stop taking advantage of its workforce, which includes many employees from disadvantaged groups, such as foreign spouses from Southeast Asia, Aborigines and elderly women.

“Over the past 10 years, the company almost never improved its working conditions. I think the point is that workers must fight for their own benefits,” union volunteer Chen Liang-fu (陳亮甫) said.

He added that direct action by employees could be more effective than recent legislative drives for the “four laws for pay raises” to legally require companies to share their profits.

China Airlines said its flights would not be affected by the strike, adding that the company would continue to seek dialogue with the strikers.