China Airlines yesterday reiterated its commitment to aviation safety after a pilot, who was fired by the airline for failing four alcohol tests in one day, threatened to mobilize the Taoyuan Pilots’ Union to go on strike.
“We hope the public will support China Airlines’ position in maintaining aviation safety. We also hope that other pilots will see what the matter was really about and will not be swayed by others,” China Airlines senior vice president Gao Xing-huang (高星潢) said at a news conference.
The pilot, surnamed Fu (傅), failed the alcohol tests after reporting for duty on July 11, Gao said, adding that was the day Fu was elected acting chairman of the union.
Fu filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labor accusing the airline of violating the Labor Union Act (工會法) by engaging in unfair labor practices, Gao said.
The act is supposed to protect members of a union so that they will not be unfairly treated by their company when they participate in events organized by the union, he said.
“The ministry agreed that alcohol consumption is not a union activity and overruled Fu’s complaint,” Gao said.
After Fu reported for duty at 6:10pm on July 11 at Kaohsiung International Airport, an alcohol test was administered that showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.084 milligrams per liter (mg/L), Gao said.
Fu was given 20 minutes to rinse his mouth and rest, followed by a second test that found his blood alcohol level was 0.117mg/L, Gao added.
He said the company later administered two additional tests using a larger machine that can generate more precise results, which measured Fu’s blood alcohol level at 0.13mg/L and 0.11mg/L.
Fu’s assignment that night was canceled immediately after the tests, Gao said, adding that Fu was subsequently fired, as his blood alcohol level had exceeded 0.1mg/L.
Just as many would agree that people should not drink and drive, nor should pilots drink and operate an airplane, and the company has enforced relevant regulations for years, he said.
China Airlines will not bend the rules simply because Fu is a union member, Gao said, adding that it was pure coincidence that Fu was elected acting chairman of the union on the day he was caught drinking before reporting for duty.
Gao questioned the legitimacy of organizing a strike, saying that the union used an online questionnaire to determine the number of members in favor of going on strike, but it registered them as favoring a strike just for responding.
“What was paradoxical was that union members who are not China Airlines employees could also vote for a strike, which begs the question of whether such a move would be legitimate,” Gao said.
Asked about allegations that the company does not have consistent standards for alcohol tests, he said the airline uses devices for fast screenings and certified machines that produce more precise results to thoroughly administer tests, in line the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s requirements.
All the machines have functioned normally and the airline has properly followed procedures to enforce alcohol tests, he added.
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