The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union yesterday accused EVA Airways of stranding its flight attendants overseas until they agree to sign an agreement pledging not to join a strike.
At least 15 flight attendants are stranded in Vienna and Houston, Texas, after being informed by the airline that they must first sign a contract agreeing to not join the strike after returning to Taiwan, and hand in their passports and Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, union secretary-general Cheng Ya-ling (鄭雅菱) said in a protest outside the Presidential Office Building.
Flight attendants who have signed the agreement have been allowed to return home, although the union does not know their exact numbers, she said.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
To return home, crew members need paperwork provided by the airline, union member Lee Ying (李瀅) said.
“If the company does not provide the paperwork, they cannot just buy a plane ticket and come back,” she said.
The stranded flight attendants are “very anxious and scared,” as they do not know how long they would remain abroad or whether the company would pay for their expenses during the extended stay, Cheng said.
“The company blatantly told its employees to sign the agreement or not come home — what kind of business is that?” she said.
“Going on strike is not a crime, but an employee’s basic right,” she added.
Under the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法), airlines are responsible for arranging crew members’ return trips after they complete their work abroad, attorney Cheng Li-chuan (程立全) said.
Not allowing them to return home unless they sign a pledge could be an infringement of their freedom of expression and might even constitute coercion, he said.
“The union has always been willing to negotiate with the company,” Cheng said, urging the company to resume talks with its representatives.
The union is flexible about its demands, including raising flight attendants’ hourly layover allowance she said.
Separately, union deputy secretary Chou Sheng-kai (周聖凱) said the union had been aware of a plan by EVA to hire more than 200 flight attendants this year, which the airline announced yesterday.
He respects the plan, but hopes the company would work to resolve the labor dispute soon, he told reporters outside EVA headquarters in Taoyuan’s Nankan (南崁).
Flight attendants need to undergo three months of training before they can report for duty, he said.
“If the company fires a large number of flight attendants and immediately hires a new batch, it would be illegal,” he said.
EVA flight attendants began their strike at 4pm on Thursday after negotiations with management broke down earlier in the day.
Unless the company makes new offers, the union is to vote every 10 days on whether to continue the strike, with the first vote expected on Saturday, the union said.
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