Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Pilots’ union calls for new CAL boss

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Taoyuan Union of Pilots yesterday rally in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei calling for China Airlines chairman Sun Hung-hsiang to be replaced.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Dozens of members from the Taoyuan Union of Pilots gathered at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei yesterday morning, asking the ministry to replace China Airlines (CAL) chairman Sun Hung-hsiang (孫洪祥) immediately because he is “clearly unfit to manage the airline.”

They said they would return if the ministry fails to address the issue.

Union director Chen Hsiang-ling (陳祥麟), a China Airlines pilot, said union members came out to protest because they love the company.

He said the airline is not as competitive as it used to be, and the quality of in-flight service is declining because of a series of austerity measures implemented by the management.

Sun should take full responsibility for the deteriorating quality of service, Chen said.

As the company is scheduled to hold a board of directors meeting tomorrow, Chen said board members should consider former Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp chairman Tony Fan (范志強) and Landis Taipei Hotel chairman Stanley Yen (嚴長壽) as potential replacements.

However, a story in yesterday’s Chinese-language Economic Daily said CAL president Samuel Lin (林鵬良) or Fan were likely to be chosen to the manage the nation’s largest airline.

Union chairman Yang Kuang-hai (楊光海), another China Airlines pilot, said many of the airline’s employees “trembled in fear” when they heard that Lin might be picked as the next chairman.

“We prefer the ministry pick someone from inside the firm who understands every aspect of the company’s operations and listens to what the base-level workers have to say,” Yang said, adding that he had read stories about Lin’s management style online.

Yang said he hoped yesterday’s protest would force the management to tell the truth about the airline’s operations, improve working conditions and raise the salaries of frontline workers.

About 1,000 employees demonstrated outside the airline’s Nanjing E Road headquarters in Taipei on Jan. 22 to protest its handling of year-end bonuses.

Some of the protesters were suspended afterwards and only allowed to return to their jobs after extensive media coverage of what appeared to be the company’s vindictive gestures, the union said.

Several pilots worked between Feb. 14 and Mar. 13 to gather signatures on a petition endorsing a move to replace the airline’s current management and collected 3,124 signatures, representing nearly half of the airline’s frontline employees, the union added.

The union questioned the effectiveness of the austerity measures Sun introduced in 2008 when he was the company’s president, known as the “Fire Phoenix Plan.”

The company said these measures helped create synergy valued at NT$8 billion (US$256.61 million at current exchange rates), the union said they actually hurt CAL’s competitiveness and profitability.

Data from the union showed the company’s service quality ranking by UK-based Skytrax Research dropped from No. 39 in 2011 to No. 54 last year, while its earnings per share fell from NT$2.31 in 2010 to minus-NT$0.25 last year.

China Airlines said yesterday’s demonstration was not initiated by the company’s own union.

It said it understood the petitions from its employees, adding that it sought to communicate with the members of the company’s union.

The airline’s finances have significantly improved since the third quarter last year thanks to the drop in oil prices and the launch of its Boeing 777 fleet, the company said.

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