Taiwan’s EVA Air cabin crew end unprecedented strike

by AFP/ pic by AFP

An unprecedented 17-day strike at Taiwan’s largest private airline that saw more than 1,200 flights cancelled and 300,000 passenger journeys disrupted has ended after management reached a collective agreement with cabin crew.

The strike at EVA Airways was the longest in Taiwan’s aviation history and comes less than six months after another strike by pilots at its competitor China Airlines.

More than 2,300 cabin crew demanding better benefits and working conditions walked out last month after failed negotiations, forcing three weeks of flight cancellations ahead of the busy summer holiday period.

Hundreds of striking workers burst into tears when news of the collective agreement was announced Saturday evening.

“I want to tell EVA that you have messed with the wrong people,” a union representative Liao Yi-ching told a cheering crowd of cabin crew, the vast majority of whom are women.

The union said it will not strike for the next three years in return for increased flight stipends and a promise by the company not to pursue retaliatory action against employees who joined the strike.

“We have heard our employees’ voices, we will increase communication with our staff,” EVA Airways chairman Lin Bao-shui told reporters.

EVA Air Corporation – an affiliate of Taiwan’s biggest transport conglomerate Evergreen Group – said it had lost $97 million due to the industrial action, according to company filings with the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

The company is renowned for its traditional management style, strict corporate culture and overwhelmingly female crew.

But the strike fast became a public relations headache as staff protested over working conditions and how the largely male management treated workers.

During the strike the firm announced it would hire 200 male and foreign nationals, part of an effort to diversify its current all-women flight cabin crew.

Taiwan has been one of Asia’s economic tigers but it struggles with stagnant salaries averaging some $1,700 a month.

President Tsai Ing-wen has made low wages one of her top priorities since coming to office in 2016, and has since raised minimum hourly wage.

But Taiwan still lags far behind developed Asian economies like South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, prompting many young Taiwanese to look for work overseas.