Here’s Why China Airlines Flight Attendants Are Going On Strike For The First Time Ever

It looks like I flew China Airlines just in time, as their flight attendants are going on strike for the first time ever on Friday. According to airlineroute.net, all China Airlines flights departing Taipei between 6AM and 10PM on Friday, June 24, 2016, will be canceled. Flight attendants in Taiwan have apparently never gone on strike, so this is pretty huge news.

China-Airlines-A340

96% of flight attendants voted in favor of the strike, so this is a huge development. Here’s the cause of the strike, according to Focus Taiwan News Channel:

The dispute arose after CAL unilaterally decided that, starting in June, its flight attendants must report for duty at the nation’s main airport in Taoyuan, instead of at Songshan Airport in Taipei. For many flight attendants, it means fewer logged work hours and therefore less time for rest.

The strike is currently planned for the peak summer travel season.

They demanded that CAL withdraw the decision, raise the subsidy for those on duty in a foreign country from US$2 to US$5 per hour, and increase the number of annual holidays from 118 days to 123.

China-Airlines-777

It seems like there have been many labor issues, but the thing which pushed them over the edge was that crews only started logging hours when getting out to TPE Airport, rather than TSA Airport (which is much closer to the city). But now they have other demands which they’re addressing as part of this negotiation as well.

What’s equally fascinating is how forceful the union is being about the strike, as they’re collecting the passports of crewmembers so that they don’t even have the option of working. Per The Diplomat:

The union is planning to take possession of 1,500 crew members’ passports and mainland travel permits, in order to ensure the members stick to their decision to go on strike, announced union spokeswoman Huang Huei-cheng. Those who do not cooperate will be removed from the union, said Huang.

I’m curious to see how long this strike lasts. I’m also grateful that I seem to have flown China Airlines at exactly the right time, as I missed the strike by a day.

Comments

  1. 118 annual holidays? 123 annual holidays? They have that many paid days off???? Is that correct??

  2. One of the biggest issue is that the airline is looking to push and allow for a maximum of 220 working hours in a month. Not sure what is the norm for other major airlines?

  3. 123 days is including weekends.. so it really isn’t all that many days off.

    and CAL only recognizes flight hours as between Takeoff and Landing. Not when you report, not when you prep and not even when you taxi. Which is quite ridiculous.

  4. As a citizen of the Republic of China, I support the strike! The company basically told the FAs that if they don’t give up their rights from the new labor laws, they would fire them…

  5. Well too bad they have union, unlike china airline, Eva who is notorious against the union and pretty much ask all their employees to give up their right on union for the job. no complain, no problem there.
    So is the Singapore air , see this video, priminister lee dominant the union bullcrap

  6. Wrong.

    Here are the issue that I have with this strike.

    1. China airlines salary and benefit is already highest in Taiwan. Average salary is about 18% higher than BR.

    2. CI attendant was the last group to change the reporting site to place of departure. In this case the company HQ moved to taoyuan from Taipei downtown airport. Which the transit time from Taipei downtown to taoyuan is no longer part of duty time. Which I think CI attendant is being greedy here.

    3. CI attendant is asking the per-diem for foreign destination from $2 per hour to $5. Which is higher than CI pilot, and is also $3.10 higher than BR. CI management agreed to raise to $3 per hour and matching the pilot per- diem.

    4. They are also asking above the norm for off days. Reduction of red eye flights… Etc.

    This is a stupid and greedy strike.

  7. I’ll support any strike that has a membership vote of 96%. It’s extremely hard to get workers to strike – for any reason. I don’t know their issues but from what I’ve seen regarding Asian airline’s labor relations it must be at the breaking point.

    I was once on a Singapore Airlines flight when the female FA’s were extremely upset that the airline continued their policy to make them wear the sari or whatever they call the dress they have to wear (along with their size and weight, among other things). One asked me what they should do. I said, negotiate and if that won’t do strike. She balked.

    Yes, I have some feel for the politics in Singapore but like anywhere else, if you don’t stand up for yourself , don’t ask others to.

  8. Jung and Jerry must be anti union lawyers or mouth pieces for management. Which is it guys?

  9. Jung and Jerry must be anti-union lawyers or mouth pieces for management. Which is it guys?

  10. You know what, flight attendants and the front line personnel are the ones who do the real work. If China Airlines has similar executives to worker pay ratios to that of the US I say strike and strike often. Otherwise they’ll just be giving up their rights little by little until they become powerless. People who say they shouldn’t strike are either part of the greedy management class or they have no self respect and willing to work for scraps.

  11. This strike is definitely not a stupid and greedy one. Stop taking BR which is a corp forbidding employees organizing a labor union and monitoring every words coming out of the employees’s mouth as a reference. It just makes the arguments silly and hilarious. The truth is that the management of CI enforced the crews to sign a ridiculously unreasonable agreement. The new agreement enormously cuts the rest time of the crews. Under this new policy, you may frequently see crews who just slept 3~4 hours between shifts. The accumulation of exploiting policies leads to the historical strike, not to mention the management is notorious for bureaucracy and just a bunch of fat cats. The strike is just a few blocks away from my house and I am 100% support this strike.

  12. The only thing unions accomplish is to screw over customers/consumers. The reason most US3 airlines have such shitty customer service, and crusty flight attendants that should have retired in 1986? Unions. Can’t fire government employees for watching 6 1/2 hours of porn at work every day? Unions. Can’t fire teachers for molesting kids in schools? Unions.

    People needed unions back in the day. Now they serve only to collect mandatory dues from workers paychecks (even workers who choose not to join) to enrich union leaders, and who’s only benefit makes firing unproductive employees such a pain in the ass that it’s not worth the time for the company to waste resources fighting it.

  13. @Kevin – So the flight attendants should obey management and do what they’re told?

    Real question.

  14. unions are infinite, as are corporations. So when corporations cannot die, neither can unions … Their beneficiaries (those who profit from either, or both) have no reason to let it go.

  15. @Kevin- I completely agree with your thought. Unions need to be there for low skilled/low paid employees. Not the once who make decent income and by knowing that they have power to cripple a company go on strike. If you don’t like your job find another one that pays you more, that will raise salaries. Look what is happening in France unions can bring down a whole country.

  16. In a civilized world Unions are a necessary part of companies today. It’s impossible to find stability in a job if a company will fire you for anything. And in response to @Kevin: Man gets fired for being gay, lack of unions. Woman gets fired for too much sick time because she has a life threatening condition, lack of unions. Person gets fired because of a manager who wants to feel self-important, lack of unions.

  17. Ben,
    I have been following up your blog for about a year and thank you for sharing a lot of good information.

    @ Jerry, as a TAIWANESE I have no clue where your “greedy and stupid” words came from. Your comments and logic cannot support on any of your statement at all.

    The FAs went on strike for several reasons and the airport changing issue is just the last straw.

    – China Airline made tons of money when the oil prize went down. However, the CI year end bonus is only NTD20,000 (~USD600). This is extremely low and hilarious.

    – Before this strike, China Airline already fired some maintenance crew, however, since the Union of maintenance crew is relative weak (in general, I would say Unions in TW are pretty weak), so the management team doesn’t give a damn shxt about it if they will even go on strike. It’s pretty common that employers in Taiwan only want employees to discuss problems in house and say, “we hear you,” and do nothing about it.

    – Last month, CA sent out the internal letter to ask FAs sign off the letter based on Labor Standards Act clause 84-1. If you signed it, CA will give you salary raise which means you agreed the airport change. What even worse was, even you didn’t sign off the letter, CA still forced you to accept it and that is fxxking against the law. CA is trying to invisibly increase the working hour (reduce breaking time) of FAs which is BS.

    So everyone was pissed off and what did CA do? They sent another internal emails in both soft and hard ways and said if the reputation of CA is damaged, CA will consider to punish the employees. Oh ya, so are we living in North Korea now? The more disgusting thing is CA asked ex-employees came back to fly, and even retired employees went on news said they can fly for FREE to help CA pass through this strike. CA did nothing to solve the problems but just did anything they could to let public feel that these FAs are stupid and greedy. Great, they got Jerry to buy the story!

    @ Ben this is probably not only the first FA strike in Taiwan but also probably one of the largest strikes for people at my age (30s) in my memory. Not only Unions are not strong but also previous KMT-lead government tended to lean to employers.

    Anyway, many of my friends including me support this strike. It’s time for change of working environment in Taiwan.

    Have a safe travel, everyone, no matter where you go~

  18. I would like to point out that the current setup makes having to work 230 hours/month possible. A standard 40 hour week would only get you to 168 hours in a 30-day month. Also, flight attendants can be expected to be on duty for 24 hours as long as they’re given three hours of rest between flights.

    But, uh, sure, it’s the unions that are causing all the problems.

  19. @Kevin – completely agree, particularly your statement “People needed unions back in the day.” Unfortunately you failed to recognize the time element. The labor situation in Taiwan is similar to what it was like the US in the early 1900’s. I may have exaggerated a bit but the truth is closer to that. For some countries/industries, unions have definitely outlived their usefulness (I frequently travel to New York and Las Vegas for exhibitions. I have seen the cost of having three union guys changing one light bulb in the convention centre) but not in Taiwan. They just started the “movement.”

    The real aim for the strike is to ensure the flight attendants will have enough rest between flights.

  20. Kevin & Compspy – Ridiculous comments. Completely incorrect. Also, the highest proportion of unionized workers in the US are professional and white color. Airlines would not be unionized top to bottom if they treated their employees with respect and proper remuneration and would stop trying to grab or destroy their pension plans.

  21. Sorry, but wrong info.
    118 guaranteed off days is the labors’ right protected by the Taiwansee labor law, which excludes flight attendants, among other workers (i.e. nurses, doctors, security guards…) Since not protected by the current labor law, flight attendants in Taiwan has only 96 days instead of 118 days. And these are not what you might think as annual holiday, because these days cannot be designated , and include the legal rest hours after any long haul flights. On top of all that, CI has been illegally dispatch flight attendants regardless of the law, simply because it considers paying the fine financially wiser than dispatching the crew legally. (CI is ranking top 3, if not #1, in terms of the established cases against labors’ right in Taiwan.)
    Back to the main issue of this strike. According to Taiwanese labor law, the flight attendants working condition shall be governed by the article 84-1, allegedly negotiated/approved by both the (representatives of) employees and the employer. However CI threw out a non-negotiable version of article and forced CI flight attendants to sign. This was the major cause of this strike and the main claim.
    And at last, I can’t help but say this: let’s not bring out those even worse work condition, because the force (and voices) of people should aim for a better future. Those who don’t rise and act for yourselves, at least do not drag people into the mud with you.

  22. Anyone who thinks unions and businesses are different beasts needs a reality check – both can be forces for good or evil, both can be run by corrupt bastards, and far too often the senior executives of a union and executive management of a business collude to enrich themselves and f*ck over the workers.

    So let’s please spare the fake class warfare rubbish. And with what’s been said here – I don’t think a union demanding members hand over their passports is a champion of worker’s rights.

  23. @Reality,

    Yes – they should. If they don’t like the job, they are free to look elsewhere. No one is holding a gun to their head and forcing them to work for the airline.

  24. Jerry,

    Did you even know that the difference between reporting for duty in Sungshan and reporting for duty in Taoyuan? It’s NOT about money. Transit time is NOT paid, but the total work hour makes a huge difference in rest time after each flight. You should have looked more into the issue before you made any comment. The dispute is actually over rest time. You are the stupid one here, not the flight attendants.

    Plus, why can’t flight attendants ask for higher per diem than pilots? Polite planned their own strike last year which never happened because the airlines agreed to meet all their requests, including a 3 dollar hourly per diem. They could have asked for 5 dollars but didn’t. I don’t see why you can call flight attendants greedy when we fight for what we think is fair. Our per diem hasn’t been raised for 30 years, while the cost of living anywhere around the world has doubled or more.

    Oh yes, I know this and a lot more because I AM A CHINA AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT! You better watch your words and show some respect.

  25. Kevin,

    When you are not happy about your job, the best solution is to fight for what you think is right, instead of being a coward and look elsewhere. That’s how working conditions change in favor of labors in the past few decades.

  26. Thanks Amber for the clarification on the facts. My sister was one of their latest recruits and I know for a fact that she has ridiculously low amount of vacation days. In regards to the hours they work and the short breaks between flights, I must say- if this was in the U.S. you bet ya there’d be a strike. Whether someone’s in the Union or not, I’m all for people standing up for themselves and fighting for their rights.

    I completely agree with Amber as well, the cost of living around the world is much higher than it used to be and they should be paid accordingly. Taiwan’s meek labor force on top of low paying jobs which seems to he the norm, union is not a bad idea.

    Disclosure: my sister isn’t in the union-yet.

    Cheers from California,

  27. Well I am worried. I booked a flight with CA for next month.
    Collective bargaining is a good tactic , still I dont trust unions much. Maybe the executives are young and out of touch with reality. I would rather have a well rested crew that is capable of good decisions in everyday tasks and definitely in the event of an incident. Get the executives to work the front lines for a week and see how well they survive with little rest.
    Must respect and listen to your workforce. They are not just employees but stakeholders in the company’s success and failures. Loyalty works both ways.
    I hope the CA exec wake up soon and limit the damage to their brand and reputation by honouring their flight attendants and support staff.

  28. Elsa,

    This sucks, you know? Why do you need to work longer hours and not get enough days off!??!?! It doesn’t make any sense. Why does it always end up having to be you!?!??! How can anybody not understand that in especially today’s world of volatile extremes and hostile takeovers, they are now your unofficial law enforcement officials in the air, so they can no longer just be your average Waiters & Waitresses or Trolley Dollies catering to your taste buds and needs as well.

  29. Jung – Prime Minister Lee can stuff it. Singapore is no longer emerging from WW II. Singapore needs to move along. The old ways are no longer the new ways. So Jung, I ask you again, who are you working for, airline management, airline legal mouthpiece or maybe Minister Lee’s lackey? What is it?

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