Thousands of travelers faced major disruptions after a pilots’ union announced a strike against China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空) yesterday morning — the first staged during a Lunar New Year holiday.
Shortly after midnight yesterday, the Taoyuan Union of Pilots said that China Airlines pilots who are union members would go on strike from 6am.
The airline, passengers and officials were taken by surprise, as many thought the union would not go on strike, because it is a peak travel period and tens of thousands of people had booked flights going abroad or returning to Taiwan.
As of noon yesterday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that the strike had affected 3,184 passengers.
China Airlines is one of the nation’s largest carriers, and the strike had an immediate effect on Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport and Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport).
Union officials held a news conference at Songshan airport in the morning, where union board director Chen Pei-pei (陳蓓蓓) said the group has not set a schedule, and if the company does not address pilots’ grievances, they would go on strike indefinitely.
Photo by Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times
The union has collected more than 200 flying certificates from member pilots, which means that they agree to the strike and have voluntarily given up their rights to operate an aircraft, she said.
“Many pilots are on vacation right now, but they will soon return home and will hand in their credentials. So the number will continue to grow. We have also received numerous calls from members expressing their support for the strike,” Chen said.
This would affect more China Airlines flights in the coming days, she said, adding that the union represents about 900, or 80 percent, of the carrier’s pilots.
Union members said that the issue of overwork was their main grievance.
“We are asking the company to remove factors that cause pilots fatigue and threaten flight safety,” union chairwoman Lee Hsin-yen (李信燕) said.
Specifically, China Airlines should assign four pilots and copilots instead of the usual three to all flights of more than 12 hours, while flights of eight hours or more should have three crew members instead of two, Lee said.
However, the airline has refused, saying that the proposed move would significantly increase the company’s operational costs and reduce its competitiveness, Lee said.
Pilots said that they have been demanding better pay, more rest hours and greater autonomy for nearly a year.
China Airlines also held a news conference, saying that the strike affected 18 flights, or 10 percent of its transport capacity.
It urged passengers not to panic, saying it would work with other airlines to send them to their destinations.
The airline said in a statement that it has never stopped negotiating with pilots and that union officials were misleading the public, because many of the demands they made in public were different from what they had told the company.
China Airlines chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan (何煖軒) traveled to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 10am, where he thanked ground staff for doing their job and maintaining standards.
“I had asked union representatives to sit down and negotiate together, but they were not willing to do so... I still look for such a face-to-face meeting to find common ground,” Ho said.
“The pilots’ union had raised their demands, which we cannot resolve, because they involve legal issues. In a democratic country, everyone has to follow the law, and I cannot fix these legal issues by myself,” Ho said.
The China Airlines Employees Union, which represents the carrier’s workers, issued a statement urging passengers to remain rational and not direct their frustrations at ground staff, because they are not participating in the strike.
Dignitaries from 47 countries yesterday congratulated President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on the commencement of her second term and highlighted Taiwan’s achievements in democracy and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations a day earlier. As of noon yesterday, 263 high-ranking officials from 47 countries and global organizations had congratulated Tsai via statements, letters, social media posts or recorded footage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, while releasing a collection of footage sent by selected dignitaries. The governments of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies sent their congratulations, as did the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy,
REASSURING NUMBERS: Taiwan’s test capacity ranks sixth or seventh among 91 nations, and is not low compared with other nations, Chen Shih-chung said The quarantine period for foreigners visiting Taiwan for business would vary based on the COVID-19 situation of the nation or territory that they are coming from, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported the 13th consecutive day of no new cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told reporters at the center’s daily briefing that modified rules covering foreign business visitors had been completed and were ready for him to sign. The complete details of the new rules would be released later this week, he said. Foreigners on long business trips would have
IN PROTEST: The US’ top diplomat said the WHA had been deprived of Taiwan’s scientific expertise, while Tsai said political factors should not be put above health US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday condemned Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly (WHA), while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday lodged a strong protest against the WHO for not inviting Taiwan. Twenty-two nations voiced support for Taiwan’s bid for participation on the first day of the assembly’s two-day virtual meeting, but despite the global community’s unprecedentedly strong support for Taiwan, it remained blocked from the assembly, with WHO member states on Monday agreeing to delay discussion on Taiwan until later this year. Pompeo, who on May 6 urged WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the WHA,
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced no new cases of COVID-19, adding that a ban on mask exports would be lifted soon under three conditions. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 401 people from among the nation’s 440 confirmed cases have been removed from isolation. Yesterday was the 12th consecutive day that no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Taiwan, and the 37th day of no new domestic cases. “As our local communities have gradually become safe, we should not become careless,” Chen said. “We should continue to take personal protective measures