Travel agents protest EVA strike

DISREGARD::EVA Airways and the flight attendants’ union both bear responsibility for the strike and should cover the costs to consumers and travel agents, agents said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jun 24, 2019 - Page 3

If the strike against EVA Airways is still on tomorrow, more than 100 travel agents from central Taiwan are ready to protest in front of the airline’s headquarters in Taoyuan’s Nankan (南崁) against the company and its striking flight attendants.

The lack of advance notice before the strike began on Thursday gave travel agents almost no time to respond, hurting both travelers and agents, Taipei Association of Travel Agents chairman Wu Chih-chien (吳志健) told a news conference alongside Association of Taichung Travel Agencies chairman Chang Chin-ding (張進丁) and Kaohsiung Association of Travel Agents chairman Wu Ying-liang (吳盈良).

“This administration has touted that it is extremely capable of communicating with the public, and we hope that it can quickly help end the strike,” he said.

“Travel agents are running out of patience and are determined to settle this by taking to the streets,” Wu Chih-chien said.

Wu Ying-liang said that travelers in the central and southern Taiwan had been hurt the most by the strike, which entered its fourth day yesterday, as the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union announced the strike at 2pm on Thursday and began it just two hours later.

“To catch a flight leaving [Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport] at 4pm, travelers in the south need to leave their home at least seven hours before that, as they need to get to a high-speed rail station, take a high-speed rail train and arrive at the airport at least two to three hours early for an international flight,” he said.

“Those from Pingtung or Taitung need to leave 12 hours beforehand, as they have to switch from a Taiwan Railways Administration train to the high-speed rail,” he added.

Chang said that his members have asked the association to take action to express their strong disapproval of the strike.

Should the strike continue, the association would organize a protest at the airline’s headquarters tomorrow, where its members would be joined by travel agents from Yunlin, Changhua, Nantou and Miaoli counties, Chang said.

Wu Chih-chien said that the agents respect the flight attendants’ right to stage a strike, but they ambushed consumers with the strike purely for their own gains.

They strongly criticize such ruthless behavior, he said.

“The Executive Yuan should immediately ask the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to end the strike,” Wu Chih-chien said.

“The nation’s air transportation industry has seen three major strikes, and travelers and travel agents have experienced great losses,” he said.

“How difficult would it be for the government to stipulate that a union should give the public advance notice — at least 15 days before an organized strike — so that consumers and travel agents could respond accordingly?” Wu Chih-chien added.

The strike is essentially a labor dispute, so both the airline and the union should be held accountable for additional costs to travelers and travel agents, he said.

Compensation should be given to independent travelers as well as members of tour groups, he said.

The three men also issued a statement they said had been endorsed by travel agent associations in New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung, as well as the Taiwan Association of Travel Agents.

Charlotte Wu (吳筱涵), an attorney recruited by travel agents, said that the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes (勞資爭議處理法) sets out limits for labor strikes if they involve life and safety of the public and/or major public interests.

Both labor and management must agree to continue providing some basic services to the public, and this principle has applied to workers of power, water and natural gas suppliers, as well as hospitals, she said.

The government should consider requiring any union representing airline workers to give advance notice of a strike to protect the public’s interests and to give consumers time to react, she said.