EVA Air Flight Attendants Are Still On Strike – Here’s Why

Taiwan is in the midst of its longest strike ever, as flight attendants for EVA Air continue to withhold their services. Despite three rounds of talks, mediated by the government, the carrier has failed to reach a deal with the union, leaving them millions of dollars out of profit.

EVA air
EVA Air are into their 12th day of strike action. Photo: Wikipedia

The EVA Air strike has entered its 12th day, making it the longest ever strike in Taiwan. It’s costing EVA Air tens of millions in lost revenue, with hundreds of flights being cancelled. Saturday saw the most positive action yet, with a vote in favor of EVA’s terms by the union; however, talks broke down at the 11th hour.

The unions will meet again tomorrow to continue discussions, with much expected to focus on ‘strike retaliation’, after EVA Air threatened to cancel bonuses and freeze wage hikes for those involved in the action.

What’s happening?

Cabin crew at Taiwanese airline EVA Air voted to take strike action on the 20th June. Supported by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union (TFAU), more than 2,300 staff are involved in the strike, which Flight Global report to be costing EVA Air in excess of $68m. The workers are seeking better pay and improved working conditions, as well as involvement in corporate governance.

On June 29th, it seemed that the union and the carrier had reached an agreement, with TAFU voting in favor of terms proposed by EVA at their third government mediated meeting. However, later that day it appeared they could not come to an agreement on benefits related issues, ending the day with no deal.

EVA Air flight attendants
EVA Air flight attendants want better pay and conditions. Photo: EVA Air

Taiwan News says more than 670 flights have been cancelled since the strike began. The Straits Times reports that the airline is operating at around 60% of its capacity. EVA Air have announced a number of international flight cancellations up to the 12th July. They recently took delivery of their new Boeing 787-10 against a backdrop of industrial unrest.

With the next meeting slated for tomorrow, it is hoped that an agreement can be reached to end the extensive impasse.

Withholding passports

Th strike has been mired in controversy since the start, with conflicting accounts coming from both TFAU and EVA regarding how the action has been handled. Most recently, Paddle Your Own Kanoo reported that the union is withholding flight attendants passports, even from those who do want to return to work.

TFAU say that flight attendants who planned to strike signed a waiver saying they were happy for the union to look after their documents. This was designed to prevent those workers from saying they would strike but then going back to work behind the union’s back.

EVA Air cabin crew
The union is reportedly withholding passports. Photo: EVA Air

However, it appears that now some may be willing to return to work, but are unable to as TAFU won’t release their passports. PYOK say that up to 100 flight attendants have asked for the return of their passports and have been denied. EVA are apparently offering to pay for them to apply for new documents. The publication quoted union official Liao Yi-chin as saying,

“We need to understand why they would like to retrieve the documents and whether they are being forced to retrieve them by the company — and if that is the case, we hope to help them.”

Strike retaliation

TFAU are accusing EVA Air of trying to impose strike retaliation in relation to the flight attendants who participated in the strike. The airline is claiming that flight attendants failed to show up for duty prior to the commencement of the strike, which occurred at 4pm on the 20th June. As such, they have marked their work schedules as ‘absent’.

EVA Air say that the flight attendants for flight BR722 had signed in to work and were asked if they were going to work the flight. At the time, they all indicated they would not be going on strike, but after consulting with the union, decided they would not board. This was at 4:06pm, on a flight with a boarding time of 4pm.

EVA Air dreamliner
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled. Photo: EVA Air

This last minute change of heart, EVA Air say, meant they had to draft in other flight crew to replace the striking workers, making the flight over three hours late to take off. However, the union vehemently denies any wrongdoing on the part of the staff, saying to Focus Taiwan,

“All our members had completed their duty and notified EVA Air about their intention to strike before 4 p.m. … {we said that] anyone signing in after 4 p.m. should not work (for EVA).”

If the members of staff are found guilty of absenteeism, it will affect their year end bonuses and potentially their chances of promotion in the future too. As such, tomorrow’s meeting is pegged to be very much focused on the notion of strike retaliation by EVA.

EVA have already threatened to freeze annual wage increases, suspend bonus payments and stop offering discounted flights to anyone involved in the strike. But, in a separate statement, it said it would not “punish any grassroots employees for going on strike if their action abided by the law.”

According to Focus Taiwan, the union is planning to stage a sit in outside the Presidential Office in Taiwan tomorrow evening, in a bid to secure public support.