The Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Labor are trying to resolve disputes between airlines and pilots about overwork by reconciling different labor standards, officials said as China Airlines (CAL, 華航) and EVA Airways (長榮航) pilots continued to threaten strikes.
The Taoyuan Union of Pilots, which represents 70 percent of CAL’s pilots and 50 percent of EVA’s pilots, on Aug. 7 voted in favor of a strike, and since then, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) has pledged several times to review the two sets of rules governing pilots’ working hours.
Airlines in Taiwan follow two sets of laws: the Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations (AOR, 航空器飛航作業管理規則), which are aligned with standards in the global aviation industry, and the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), which applies to all employees in Taiwan.
Civil Aeronautics Administration Flight Standards Division Director Clark Lin (林俊良) said that from a regulator’s perspective, the regulations should outweigh the act when it comes to labor issues in the aviation industry.
“Considering how differently the aviation sector operates from other industries, it makes more sense for the AOR to be the guiding principle,” Lin said, adding that the AOR were drafted according to Annex 6 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which specifies international standards and recommended practices in flight operations.
The biggest difference between the AOR and the Labor Standards Act, which is also the main bone of contention between the pilots and the carriers, is how they define reasonable working hours, Lin said, stressing that this controversy must be resolved first.
For instance, under the AOR, when a two-member flight crew is assigned to an international flight, each of them can work for up to 14 consecutive hours on flight duty — which starts when the crew reports for duty and ends when the aircraft is parked.
However, the Labor Standards Act caps working hours at 12 per day for all workers. The solution now is to resort to the act’s Article 84-1, which contains an exemption for jobs “of a special nature.”
People in such professions may agree on working hours with their employers and submit their agreements to the competent local authorities for approval.
Although this means that the aviation industry can operate under the AOR, airlines said that they have repeatedly been fined by labor authorities when the union reported them over individual flight operations that exceeded 12 hours due to factors out of their control, such as bad weather.
Imposing the act’s provisions on the aviation industry would lower Taiwanese airlines’ competitiveness, the carriers said.
However, the union said that it is only asking for a more friendly working environment, to which all workers are entitled.
The pilots are looking forward to less tight schedules, union chairwoman and EVA pilot Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕) said, adding that airlines schedule more rest time before and after red-eye flights and flights that take close to 12 hours.
In said that until a consensus is reached between the two sides and the law is revised, the CAA should check each carrier’s flight schedules monthly to see whether pilots are on the edge of overwork.
Under the AOR, pilots’ flight hours may not exceed 120 within 30 consecutive days and the CAA must check whether pilots are assigned close to that limit, regardless of whether the pilots agree.
Experts have said that the authorities should come up with regulatory standards for the aviation industry and the AOR should be improved.
CAL’s and EVA’s management practices are generally aligned with those of the global aviation industry, National Cheng Kung University Department of Transportation and Communication Management Science associate professor Tai Tso-min (戴佐敏) said.
There is no reason to be concerned about flight safety as a result of overwork under the AOR, Tai said, adding that the special nature of the aviation business should not be overlooked in the labor-management negotiations.
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