Friday, June 24, 2016

China Airlines Strike Begins!

The mountains from the 3.

UPDATESETV livestream

Thursday night the strike against China Airlines by its overworked, underpaid flight attendants began. New Bloom asks the question on everyone's lips: is this a historic moment for Taiwanese labor?
As news of the street occupation spread, Taiwanese youth activists made their presence increasingly felt. The size of the street occupation was comparable to—and probably larger than—the Ministry of Education occupation in August 2015. Usual suspects of Taiwanese activism made their appearance, including New Power Party politician Freddy Lim, Social Democratic Party politician, noted activist and show organizer Indie DaDee, Wu Cheng of Democracy Tautin fame and currently part of the New Power Party, as well the chairman of the Liberty Times executive council. It is reported that over fifty lawyers volunteered to aid the strike as well, and the striking workers prepared their legal teams beforehand.

KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-Chu, on the other side of the political aisle from Taiwanese youth activism, would also make a late night appearance around 2 AM, probably in imitation of Tsai’s late night visit to the Ministry of Education occupation in August 2015 and continuing the pattern of the KMT attempting to imitate past actions of the DPP. The crowd gathered had decidedly mixed reactions to Hung’s visit, given how bizarre it was when the KMT has had a long history as an antagonist of Taiwanese labor. A past KMT rally during election season which coincided somewhat strangely with a passing labor demonstration saw KMT supporters cursing out workers as they marched past. Hung would later release a statement on social media vaguely attempting to pin blame for the working conditions that led up to the strike on Tsai Ing-Wen, evidence that her visit was probably a strange, badly done attempt to try to co-opt Taiwanese youth activism.
Brian was down there among the strikers that evening. It could be a huge moment for labor in Taiwan -- many young girls dream of being flight attendants, traditionally one of the few escapes for women from working class lives in Taiwan, and also a validation of their beauty and elegance, since such women are often thought to be beautiful. UPDATE: Brian writes on the KMT's laughable attempt to co-op the strike.

In my experience masculinity in Taiwan society contains a strong element of submission to authority which women are entirely free of, thank all gods. Women in Taiwan are tougher and more militant than men. So don't expect these women to give up easily.

An acquaintance whose wife was among the strikers humorously observes:
No problem. Apparently the sit in demo will continue today. I have to say that photographing beautiful flight attendants on strike is way more pleasant than any other demos or riots I've covered.

____ told me that after the word went out on social media, Taipei's young men realised there were thousands of flight attendants demonstrating and they all rushed over to show support tongue emoticon

It gets better. One young man who displayed a signboard saying he'd missed his flight but didn't care because he supported the strike, suddenly became the hottest stud in Taiwan. The ribald on-line comments and what the girls offered him was fascinating. Quite an insight into the spiritedness of new gen Taiwanese women.
If these tough women can get the ball rolling on labor conditions in Taiwan it could be huge -- in Taiwan's patriarchal labor systems, females are at the bottom and do the scut work, and the males at the top collect the fruits of their labor. Family businesses especially are organized this way. Brian H has been following this closely and covered their demands in another post:
As part of a waiver which workers are required to sign as part of Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Law, according to workers, China Airlines is seeking to increase the work time of airline staff to 220 hours per month, more than the 174 hours which the act would stipulate. It is reported that China Airlines would also seek to redefine work hours for flight attendants, counting work hours as starting from 90 minutes from departure to 30 minutes after landing, a decrease from the previous policy of counting work hours from 140 minutes before departure and 60 minutes after landing.

Despite the shortening of work hours in which cabin crew would be paid, the amount of work cabin crew have to perform would remain the same, however. Workers would also be signing away their rights to overtime and negotiation of work hours through the waiver. Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Law is aimed at reducing excessive overtime. Part of the issue at hand, however, is that international airline flights can last for over eight hours. There is concern that this would lead to flight attendants working on regional flights being deprived of their rights as compared to those working on international flights, as well as loss of rest time. As such, workers are refusing to sign off on the waiver.
One group that may be inspired by these women on strike are nurses, whose hours and treatment are brutal. I sure hope so... on a couple of nurse discussion groups I am on the flight attendants strike is being closely watched. It is also the topic of intense discussion on PTT, the major discussion board.

This will be a major test of the Tsai Administration, which should come down hard on the part of the flight attendants and force the airline to roll back its demands. Let's see whether that "Progressive" in DPP really means something....
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Note that China Airlines was started up as a place for ex-airforce officers to retire to (some call it the ROCAF Flying Club) and the daughters and nieces of KMT elites to work an honorable and glamorous job on which they might meet a suitable suitor. In those days it was very difficult to obtain a passport to leave the country, and almost all passengers were either KMT government apparatchiks or related business elites. It didn't matter what the tickets costs as the govt. ran the airline and paid the tickets of most of the passengers. The MO was to pull the money out of the treasury and spend it on their own friends and loyal associates, as it always has been with the KMT.
Jump 50 years forward and that's all changed. The ex-ROCAF pilots are being dumped as fast as possible because of their awful lack of safety culture. The attendants job no longer attracts the KMT's offspring. Opening up the market meant the airline actually had to compete on pricing. So what to do? Well, if the crews and ground staff are no longer our own little princesses then cut their pay until the airline can afford to pay the salary and bonus packages of top management who are still KMT cronies. Simple.

The Tsai administration should really look at cutting CI loose and let it succeed or fail on it's own. Name Evergreen the flag carrier if necessary. The abuse of the crews has been going on for years, to the point they are the butt of running jokes at every airport and airport hotel they fly to. Everyone in the industry knows the CI crews work longer hours and get less rest hours than anyone else. Many know the salary scale is among the poorest among international carriers. How can a responsible government allow this shameful situation to continue? Enough already.

Anonymous said...

"Everyone in the industry knows the CI crews work longer hours and get less rest hours than anyone else" : that's exactly the reason why I don't fly CI anymore since I have been aware of the situation. I care the crew to have enough sleep before departure to be able to reach destination...

les said...

A friend of mine is a pilot with China Airlines. Every time I see him he looks like he hasn't slept in a week, and that's uncomfortably close to the truth. Not good. I could care less if the stewardesses are a little grumpy or slow with my coffee. The pilot's physical and mental condition concerns me a lot. 15 years ago my (then) employer forbade all staff from flying on CI, even if alternate tickets cost the company more. The habit of not flying China Airlines has kind of stuck with me.

Did you know that CI management regularly troll employee's FB pages looking for anti-company sentiment and comments and bring that up in reviews? Yup. You can't even bitch about your shitty job on your FB page without them docking you review points.