Saturday, June 25, 2016

Flight Attendants Strike over + Some tourism notes

Nantou's betel nut covered slopes

The flight attendants strike is over, as the TT reports:
A preliminary agreement between China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空) and the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union was reached last night to end the union’s strike, with the firm agreeing to demands for new holiday and working hour guarantees, along with extra pay for overseas stationing.
However, look for management to attempt a stealth rollback of these gains. The deal is only preliminary. But clearly Someone realized that having gorgeous young females out there militant and powerful would serve to inspire other labor unions. Like the nurses. At the bottom of this post below the READ MORE line I've placed a wonderful piece that was sent around Facebook:7 Must-knows to Support the Strike of China Airlines Flight Attendants. It explains what the strike is all about...

I sure hope this strike leads to more changes. Ordinary workers in Taiwan are suffering.

I ran into an expert on Chinese tourism in Taiwan, who told me why the group tourist count was down 31% in May but the individual tourist count rose 12%. He was in the arrival line with a Chinese tourist group at the airport and listened as they reached the Immigration Desk: they were all coming in on individual tourist visas, organized by their tour group. In other words, the quotas for group tourists were indeed slashed, so the tourist agencies simply switched to individual visas. "The figures don't mean very much. Don't forget, some of those 'tourists' are here on business," he reminded me. But overall arrivals are indeed down. These numbers should rise once the tour companies all switch to the new approach.

Beijing must be turning a blind eye because it doesn't want to disturb the networks it has built up in Taiwan and to preserve the profits of the tour firms in China, which Taiwan media claims are closely connected to the Taiwan Affairs Office there.

See also New Bloom on the CAL strike and its aftermath

REF7 Must-knows to Support the Strike of China Airlines Flight Attendants

Flight attendants of China Airline (CAL) is starting their strike and the largest strike in Taiwan labor movement history. June 24 midnight, Taiwan time; noon of June 23 (EST)....

As a son of a motor mechanic working at the airport for 36 years, I urge my transnational friends and colleagues to support this strike, and understand how meaningful it is for all local and migrant workers in Taiwan.

Here are SEVEN must-knows for you:
1. China Airline is a Taiwan-based airline company.

Don’t get confused about the name.
You may have been mixed up Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC) with China (People's Republic of China, PRC), as all my bank managers and most American students did. But CAL was definitely founded and funded by the government based in Taiwan in 1959. Now it has become a “private” company indirectly controlled by the Ministry of Transportation through assigning broad members.
Don’t ask me why a publicly owned company became a private one but is still controlled by the government, and how. This million-dollar question deserves another dissertation. Just take it as it now.

2. CAL flight attendants are striking for reasonably REST time. Don’t forget, they are human.

Recently the CAL management arbitrarily changed the ways to calculate attendants’ work time. First, the headquarter asks all attendants to check-in for work at Taoyuan (where the largest international airport in Taiwan locates), instead of Taipei City (the original check-in point). The driving distance from Taipei to Taoyuan is one hour. Changing the check-in point from Taipei to Taoyuan means eating out two hours of rest time per mission from nearly 3,500 flight attendants.

Secondly, the CAL management cluelessly defines that whenever 30 minutes after landing is rest time. Representatives of attendants raged against this policy change because in 30 minutes after landing they are usually helping infants and disabled passengers, searching and collecting lost-and-founds, greeting to all passengers, to name a few. This rude policy substantially depreciates their real working time, and will reasonably ruin the future service quality if implemented arbitrarily.
Imagine how much time all attendants living in New York City need to report to their company by taking an official bus to New Brunswick, needless to say the time they shower, dress up (dress down?), and sleep in the intermission of flights. Oh, by the way, do they deserve life and family time?

3. Flight attendants’ sleep time matters to passengers’ life.

If recently you are flying China Airline, your flight may be delayed, merged, or canceled. No need to complain because flight attendants’ strike is good for your safety.

Based on the current labor policy, a flight attendant working longer than 12 hours can take a 24-hour rest, which means stay at the foreign city over night. Those who work less than 12 hours earn only 12 hours to rest prior to their next shift——which means they need to fly back and forth on the same day.

This is why the work time reduction due to aforementioned two new policies are so important! Failure to count two hours of semi-work commuting, plus a few quarters of after-landing service time, will significantly re-classify many flights of 12 hours and more to less than 12 hours. With these policies, attendants have to fly more, work longer, and rest significantly less——with the same pay! This will force all attendants to serve people with poorly charged bodies and discouraged minds.
While China Airlines is unreasonably increasing its red-eye flights (2am-5am) and keeping the size of cabin crew at the borderline of burn-out, do you really want to fly with a group of attendants with red eyes and fatigued smiles?

4. Who initiated the strike is not the “capon” union.

Sorry for the gendered, highly masculinized word, capon (閹雞). But Taiwanese labor union leaders do use “capon union” to name these unions that are controlled by the capitalists and that do not independently made decisions and perform collective actions (Ho 2012[2006]). In this case, the capon union is China Airline Corporate Union (CIU, 中華航空企業工會), who spoke for the boss.
So, you may find surprising that what initiated the strike is Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU), not the one with China Airline.

Why not the other union in the corporate? What produces the “capon union” eco-system is the union law. According to the Taiwan Labor Union Act, workers in one corporate can only organize one union (Article 6 and 9). While the CIU has been long-term controlled, “disarmed,” or “castrated” by the capitalists (don’t forget their indirect big boss——the government), workers with awakened consciousness has no way but to organize another professional union. In this case, the TFAU.
5. 99% voted YES to strike!

You know, Taiwanese has been criticized or self-ridiculed as selfish, materialistic, and lack of solidarity. Our self-interested thinking often (if not always) hinders the altruistic collective action. This time is different.
In the late night of June 21, 2016, the strike passed with a voting rate as high as 96%. In the meantime, 99.5% said YES to strike. See the numbers yourself. Understand so why many Taiwanese people are encouraged by this inspiring result.

6. Taiwan is the Top 4 country of world longest labor hour.

Based on 2014 OECD data, Taiwanese on average works 2,141 hours per year (41.2 hr /week), only shorter than Mexico (2,228), Costa Rica (2,216), and Korea (2,163). FYI: American work 1,789 hours in 2013, Japanese 1,729, UK 1,677, French 1473, and German 1,371.

Taiwan society is debating whether to reduce work time in general, not only for attendants. This policy change may help Taiwan’s industrial eco-system to transform from labor-intensive OED to intelligence-intensive and brand-value sponsored industry. While Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong have made it, Taiwan (the loser of previous four Asian Tigers/Dragons, whatever) is still painstakingly catching up.

The strike of CAL flight attendants shot the first bullet, triggering those spoiled bosses to do something. Why “spoiled”?

7. Taiwanese workers are suffering due to long work time, low pay, over-work, and unsafe work environments.

In the past 16 years, mortgage price in Taiwan tripled. The mean of annual economic growth rate was as high as 3.84%. However, workers’ salary stagnated. While life expenditure rocketed with the growing bills of oil, gas, and electricity, people’s pocket money in 2016 remains the same as it was in 2000.

In other words, most Taiwanese workers do not benefit from the fruit of economic growth, but suffer from the inflation that the growth produced. Here goes Taiwan workers’ sarcasm:

“A shift starts when the time clock rings;
a shift ends only when all projects run to the end.”

This terrible “joke” tells much the loophole of the so-called “responsibility system,” that has been abused by many companies, regardless of their size and reputation. Using this system, capitalists and managers can “legally” urge subordinators to work over time (I am not satirizing) and not to call it a day until all their commands fulfilled, regardless of the previously negotiated off time.

“9 a.m. to 6 p.m.?”
“Come on. You must be joking!”

Poor working conditions have caused that the Taiwanese young generation works longer than 8 hours per day, receives unreasonably low economic rewards, and works over time with the price of physical and mental health. Unhealthy working environments push young professionals to migrate to other countries for better jobs, which produces a trend of “brain drain” and weakens Taiwan’s labor market and larger society.

Many scholars reported that the bad working conditions and unbalanced work-life time are the two of main factors that make Taiwan the country of the world lowest fertility rate.

Unfortunately, the older generation, including the former administration, blamed those who criticized the capitalist exploitation, smearing those who spoke up as “cowards,” “lazy guys,” “rotten strawberries,” and “a generation of strawberries (草莓族)”. Do they sound familiar in your country?

Do you think that these mega-capitalists in Taiwan understand what they’ve done to workers and may find ways to solve the problems? No! Terry Gou (郭台銘, the owner of Foxconn, the largest OEM partner of Apple) said,
We have enough holidays in Taiwan. [...] Children [who take more days off] won’t succeed.

Well, Mr. Gou is not alone. The president of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI) said, Work time reduction will result in Taiwan’s loss of competitiveness. This is bad for sustainable development.

What a vintage cliche frequently recycled whenever any policy is made for workers’ good. (Do these capitalists share cheat sheets somewhere in their luxury VIP clubs?) These old, rich, super-upper class men seem have lost their creativity to make a new line; so do they find new ways to boost Taiwan’s macro economy.

Time to change.

Your patience and support to China Airline flight attendants’ strike is also to help create a better working environment for all Taiwan workers, including the Taiwan born AND those migrant workers from East and Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Euro-America, and the rest of the world.

I believe this will be a baby, but important step to make our world job market less neo-liberalistic, less 1%-dominated, and more humane and equalitarian.
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