Wed, Jan 28, 2015 - Page 4 News List

CAL accused of trying to suppress union activities

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

China Airlines (CAL) yesterday faced accusations that it is trying to suppress union activities after four employees were suspended from flight duties for a month and told to attend “anger-management courses” as a result of their actions during a demonstration on Thursday last week.

Labor unions said the suspensions clearly violate employees’ rights to participate in collective bargaining and they vowed to appeal the case to labor authorities.

About 1,000 airline employees and their supporters took part in the demonstration outside the company’s office in Taipei to protest the size of their year-end bonuses and what they called “sweatshop-like” labor conditions.

They said the bonuses were NT$20,000 — not NT$45,000 as the airline claimed — and did not reflect the company’s high revenues.

The four employees who have been suspended are union representatives from the Third Division of the China Airlines Employees’ Union, who spoke onstage during Thursday evening’s protest.

Although union leaders took part in negotiations for the year-end bonuses, members of the union’s Third Division — mostly flight attendants — voted against the decision to accept the bonuses and launched a prolonged campaign with the help of the union’s parent body — the Taoyuan Confederation of Labor Unions.

Members of several other unions affiliated with the aviation industry, including those for pilots, mechanics and laundry workers, expressed solidarity with the protesters.

A China Airlines spokesperson said the four union representatives would be removed from flight duties for at least one month because their behavior at the protest did not reflect the professional conduct expected of flight attendants.

The company also said the quartet’s “emotional behavior” showed they needed to attend anger-management courses because their behavior could affect the quality of service provided to passengers or threaten flight security.

The four will continue to receive their monthly salaries and the minimum stipulated 60 hours of flight bonuses, the company said.

However, as flight attendants typically spend 75 to 100 hours per month in the air, the four could lose between NT$7,000 and NT$10,000 from a month-long suspension.

A union member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the four would be reassigned to ground positions at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, but it was “unlikely” that the anger-management courses would actually take place.

She also said that China Airlines representatives outside an MRT station near the protest attempted to dissuade employees from attending the event and took photographs of the people who participated in the protest.

Taoyuan Confederation of Labor Unions secretary-general Yao Kuang-chu (姚光祖) said the suspensions clearly violate the Labor Union Act (工會法), which forbids companies from docking employees’ pay for participating in union activities.

Yao said the confederation would file an appeal with the Ministry of Labor.

The airline could be fined from NT$100,000 to NT$500,000 if it is found to have violated labor regulations.

Wang Hou-wei (王厚偉), a section leader from the ministry’s Department of Labor Management Relations, said the ministry has not reached a conclusion about Thursday’s protest.

He said he would attend a meeting with China Airlines management in Greater Taoyuan tomorrow.

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