Sat, Feb 09, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Pilots to continue strike tomorrow, agree to talks

MINORITY SHAREHOLDER:The government only owns 35% of China Airlines, which means that it cannot direct company policy, the deputy transportation minister said

By Chien Hui-ju and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

China Airlines president Hsieh Shih-chien yesterday at a news conference in Taipei apologizes to passengers affected by the strike.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

China Airlines and the Taoyuan Union of Pilots yesterday agreed to attend a Ministry of Transportation and Communications-hosted negotiation session today.

The striking pilots are demanding that additional pilots be present on longer flights; that training programs and promotion channels for copilots be made transparent; that pressuring or penalizing union members for union activities be prohibited; that managers who hurt employer-employee relations be dismissed; and that employees be guaranteed full year-end bonus packages.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 4pm yesterday, but was postponed to 3pm today, Deputy Minister Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said.

China Airlines has indicated that it would be represented at the talks by company president Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙), Wang said.

The airline is willing to offer compromises on the pilots’ demands, he said.

However, union chairwoman Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕) said she hoped that the company could elaborate on its changes to the demands before meeting.

About 200 pilot certificates were collected yesterday afternoon and the strike would continue, Lee said, adding that the union would decide whether to end the strike after the negotiations.

At a news conference at noon, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that the dispute between the company and its employees must not come at the cost of travelers’ safety and rights.

The strike could come at “a heavy price” that the public might need to bear, Lin said.

After learning of the planned strike at 1am yesterday, he had instructed the ministry, the Taoyuan Department of Labor, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), the airline and the Tourism Bureau to establish an interagency emergency response center, he added.

The CAA has instructed China Airlines to notify affected passengers and help them arrange flights with other airlines, Lin said, adding that the company should look into viable ways of compensating stranded travelers.

Travel agencies were alerted on Thursday night so that they could help arrange alternative flight options, as well as accommodation, he said.

Travel agencies should avoid sending China Airlines passengers to airports before confirming their flight plans, he added.

The union’s right to stage strikes would be respected, but its abrupt decision to do so during the Lunar New Year holiday has not only inconvenienced travelers, but also obscured the union’s message, Lin said.

Lin called on the union to attend the ministry-led negotiations and on China Airlines to prioritize passenger rights and negotiate with the union in good faith.

The airline should seek to end the strike as soon as possible to salvage its image, while exploring potential reforms and learning from the incident, Lin said.

Responding to criticism that the ministry failed to handle the airline, Wang said that it only owns 35 percent of China Airlines and while it can make suggestions, it cannot direct company policy.

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