Tue, Nov 10, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Flight attendants seek legal changes

WORKING HOURS:A new group said that discrepancies between flight operation rules and the Labor Standards Act mean airlines can make attendants work excessive hours

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Members of flight attendant and maintenance crew unions yesterday protest outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union yesterday demanded immediate changes to the Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations (民用航空器飛航作業管理規則), saying that the rules have caused China Airlines (CAL) to overwork its flight attendants.

The union, which held a ceremony to mark its “official establishment” yesterday although the paperwork was completed in September, is made up mostly of China Airlines flight attendants.

Members of the China Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Labor Union and the attendants’ union protested in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei and asked to be able to participate in amending the regulations.

According to the protesters, many of the regulations conflict with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

The act caps working hours at 168 per month, but the regulations say that the duty period of a flight attendant could reach 230 hours over 30 consecutive days.

Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union chairman Chao Gang (趙剛) said the Labor Standards Act stipulates that a worker is supposed to work eight hours per day and their working time should not exceed 12 hours per day.

However, Article 37-1 of the Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations allows airlines to give an hour’s rest to attendants, who can then extend their duty period to 20 hours, while the duty period could be extended to 24 hours if they have rested in a hotel for three hours following their aircraft’s landing, according to Article 42-1, Chao said, adding that both articles contradict the Labor Standards Act.

CAL provided the charter flight service for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) trip to Singapore for Saturday’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), and it originally planned to use the same cabin crew term for both the outward bound and the return flights, but changed its mind after the union complained.

“They [CAL] quickly deployed another group of the flight attendants to Singapore after the union issued a statement on Friday protesting against its plan to overwork the flight attendants,” Chao said. “However, the company still violated the Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations because the stand-by crew had been working seven days in a row and should have been given at least 30 hours of rest before being given a new flight assignment, which did not happen.”

CAL said it had arranged for two cabin crews for Ma’s Singapore trip, adding that both flights had four pilots and 13 flight attendants.

While the first cabin crew departed Taipei with Ma, the second group was sent to Singapore on Friday to prepare for Ma’s return flight late on Saturday.

“Because the charter flight returned later than scheduled, which affected the subsequent assignments for the flight attendants, we have reported the situation to the Civil Aeronautics Administration [CAA],” the company said in a statement.

CAA Flight Standards Division Deputy Director Yu Yi-shi (喻宜式) said the agency would investigate the attendants’ union’s complaints and CAL’s statements, but would not try a case based on hearsay.

Yu said the definition of a “duty period” is not the same as the “work hours” defined in the Labor Standards Act, adding that the 230-hour duty period includes flight assignment time, post-fight cleanup work, administrative duties, on-the-job training and stand-by time.

The CAA and the Ministry of Labor conducted a sweeping labor inspection of all airlines in the nation between October last year and March and found no violation of civil aviation regulations, Yu said.

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