Striking EVA flight attendants urge Taiwan president to protect labor rights

After marching 27 km from EVA Airways' HQ in Taoyuan, union members delivered petition to President Tsai

Lin Yu-chia, TFAU director and EVA Air flight attendant outside Presidential Office, July 5

Lin Yu-chia, TFAU director and EVA Air flight attendant outside Presidential Office, July 5 (CNA photo)

TAIWAN (CNA) -- About 60 members of the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU) on Friday marched from Taoyuan to Taipei to deliver a petition to the Presidential Office in Taipei, asking the president to show support for flight attendants in their ongoing strike.

"We are not asking the president to fight for our benefits but to help supervise businesses and protect our labor rights," said Lin Yu-chia (林昱嘉), a TFAU director and EVA Air flight attendant.

After marching 27 kilometers from outside EVA Airways' corporate headquarters where the striking flight attendants are holding out, Lin and fellow union members delivered their petition and 30 letters from EVA Air flight attendants to a Presidential Office representative.

The representative said their appeals, which reminded Tsai that she supported striking China Airlines flight attendants in 2016 and asked that she stand on the side of justice, will be passed on to the president.

According to the Ministry of Labor, union and company representatives were scheduled to meet Friday evening to review legal terms for possible versions of a collective agreement, and hopefully decide when both sides will hold their next formal negotiation.

As of the 16th day of the strike on Friday, EVA Air has canceled 1,371 flights, affecting 266,592 passengers, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said.

But it noted that the airline's capacity has been increasing as more flight attendants who went on strike change their mind and return to work.

EVA Air will likely maintain 60-71 percent of its flight operations through July 19, the ministry said.

Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) also urged the airline to solve the issue quickly, adding that the current dispute could affect the carrier's bargaining power for future allocation of freedoms of the air.

There have been no signs, however, that labor and management are ready to bury the hatchet as they continue to accuse each other of releasing fake news, especially on how the union has been handling flight attendants who wish to abandon the strike.

There has been a big discrepancy between the airline and the union on the number of striking flight attendants who have returned to work, with EVA claiming 400 and the union only 100.

The carrier has asked judicial authorities to step in, arguing that the union has been illegally withholding three essential work documents flight attendants need to do their job.

Without their passport, Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, and EVA Air employee identification cards -- which flight attendants handed over to the union when the strike began -- they are unable to fly.

There have been reports of cabin crew being given a hard time to get their documents back, with some giving up and turning to the government for new documents, but the union denied that it was making the application procedure difficult.

On Friday, however, the union suspended accepting such requests for a day because of strong winds that knocked down a tent used to cover its medical station outside EVA Air headquarters, fearing the winds could affect member safety.