Wed, Aug 08, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Unions blast China Air for employee retaliation

EXPLOITATION?The airline is next month to introduce a program that would pay intern flight attendants one-third the regular salary for 60 hours of work a month

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union members protest on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union yesterday criticized China Airlines, saying that it has been settling scores with union members, and used a protest on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei to call for better working conditions.

In June 2016, when the union launched a strike to negotiate better pay for its flight attendants, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) promised to reform the airline and improve employees’ rights, union secretary-general Cheng Ya-ling (鄭雅菱) said.

However, employees are still overworked and punished whenever they ask for better work conditions, she said.

Over the past two years, as many as nine union members have been subject to disciplinary measures for suggesting policies to improve labor rights and flight safety, she said, adding that four of them are on the verge of losing their jobs.

Flight attendants Steven Chang (張書元), Lin Hsin-yi (林馨怡) and Chu Liang-chun (朱良駿) received written warnings for participating in a protest against overwork in June last year, China Airlines Employee Union deputy secretary-general Huang Hui-chen (黃慧甄) said.

Meanwhile, China Airlines union secretary-general Chu Mei-hsueh (朱梅雪) has been charged for slander over a union periodical he published, she said, adding that more employees — including pilots and ground staff — have been punished for simply criticizing the company.

“The company is always checking the union’s Facebook page and anyone who posts anything critical about the company will be asked to meet with upper management,” she said.

Although the local labor department has ruled many of the company’s disciplinary measures illegal, none of them have been revoked, because the firm is rich enough to pay all the fines, she added.

The airline is also preparing to launch an intern flight attendant program, which could undermine flight safety and encourage worker exploitation, the union said.

Under the program, beginning next month, interns who are to be paid only one-third a full-time flight attendant’s salary would be working on board for 60 hours per month, the union said.

The program would not be regulated, since it has not been approved by the Civil Aeronautics Administration and a draft act on internships has not yet been passed by the Legislative Yuan, the union said.

“Interns should not be used to replace full-time on-board staff. One plane should have no more than one intern flight attendant, and for every intern, the company should assign an additional full-time flight attendant to supervise and assist them,” Cheng said.

Moreover, the government should pass a law to guarantee time off for employees on government-designated typhoon days to better protect their safety, she said.

Most airlines do not grant employees time off on typhoon days unless they provide evidence that the road to work is blocked or destroyed, she said.

To fulfill its promise to reform the airline and improve flight attendants’ rights, the Tsai administration should regulate China Airlines’ use of interns and pass a typhoon law, she added.

China Airlines was founded with government funds in 1959 and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications remains a major shareholder.

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