Pilots, airlines meet with strike hanging in the balance

Taipei, A third round of negotiations between EVA Airways, China Airlines (CAL) and their respective pilots on Wednesday will determine if the pilots decide to go on strike, union officials said before talks got underway.

With only limited progress made during the previous two negotiating sessions with the airlines, union official Chen Po-chien (???) said that if the third meeting generates a similar lack of consensus, the pilots will lean toward the idea of a walkout.

"We can't wait forever for the carriers to offer a better deal as they keep making excuses that they need to study and discuss the issues more thoroughly," Chen said.

CAL, Chen said, has only been willing to discuss how flight data should be collected and used to evaluate pilot performance fairly, and no common ground has been reached on that issue.

CAL pilots have raised 28 demands focusing on better pay, more rest hours, and greater pilot autonomy.

Though the first round of negotiations seemed to have generated some progress, Chen said, the second meeting on Aug. 17 was almost entirely devoted to both sides reaffirming their commitment to negotiating in good faith.

The union accused CAL of acting in an underhanded way by asking individual pilots to promise not to go on strike by offering them a one-off payment of NT$20,000 (US$650).

Taoyuan's Department of Labor, which is mediating the talks, had to ask the two sides to focus on the topics on the agenda during the meeting and promise to refrain from provocative moves that could hinder negotiations.

Those moves included the possibility of CAL appealing a lower court's rejection on Aug. 17 of its request for a provisional injunction on any strike move before the court determines the legality of the union's attempt to call a strike.

Negotiations on the EVA Air side are more focused, but hard, Chen said, noting that the airline demonstrated some flexibility on the 16 issues the union raised, including work hours and the length of a pilot's first contract, during the meeting on Aug. 16.

While the union originally said a strike date would be announced on Aug. 20, it has postponed the announcement hoping for more concrete results from Wednesday's talks, which are expected to last late into the night.

Both airlines have said they are keeping the door open for negotiations and looking forward to achieving a consensus.

CAL and EVA Air pilots in the Pilots Union Taoyuan voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike.

Around 99 percent of CAL pilots and 97 percent of EVA Air pilots who cast ballots voted to strike in the wake of unsuccessful negotiations with management, according to union tallies released on Aug. 7.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel