By Ann Maxon and Kao Shih-ching / Staff reporters
The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union yesterday accused EVA Airways （長榮航空） of breaching labor laws after the company on Wednesday announced that it would cancel employee ticket discounts for strike participants, as well as raises and year-end bonuses for all employees.
The policy clearly contravenes Article 35 of the Labor Union Act （工會法）, as the reduced benefits would only apply to employees who participated in a strike, union secretary-general Cheng Ya-ling （鄭雅菱） told reporters.
“Although the company has the right to determine year-end bonuses given to employees, canceling them for joining a strike is not only irrational, but also illegal,” she said.
It shows that EVA is “hostile toward the union” and “intends to impose a double standard,” she added.
The policy contradicts comments by EVA chairman Steve Lin （林寶水）, who last month refused to compromise on an “anti-free-rider” clause proposed by the union, which would deny non-unionized employees any benefits obtained through negotiations with the union, on the grounds that he was against differential treatment, Cheng said.
Many union members were “infuriated” by the announcement, Cheng said, adding that “it made us more confident that people would support the union.”
Although the union is on Monday next week scheduled to begin voting on whether to launch a strike, it would still prefer to resolve labor disputes through negotiations, she said, urging EVA to “stop any irrational behavior” and re-enter talks.
By announcing plans to cancel bonuses, raises and employee discounts days before the union’s scheduled vote on a strike, EVA might have broken the law, the Ministry of Labor said.
Paragraph 1, Article 35 of the act bans employers from undermining union activities by reducing members’ wages and other unfair treatment, the ministry said.
Breaches of the provision are punishable by a fine of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 （US$969 and US$4,856）, it said.
If an employer fails to take corrective action within a given time frame, it would receive another fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000, which may be imposed repeatedly until the issue is resolved, it added.
EVA should do its best to negotiate with the union in a sincere manner and avoid interfering with the union’s activities, the ministry said.
It added that it would work with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Taoyuan City Government to provide maximum support to the union and the company.
EVA spokesman Golden Kou （柯金成） said that in the event of a severely damaging strike, the company plans to cancel all employees’ year-end bonuses and raises, which would not contravene the act.
“We did not intend to threaten the union or escalate tensions with flight attendants,” Kou told the Taipei Times by telephone. “However, we need to point out that a strike will definitely hurt the airline’s profit, which would lead to the cancelation of year-end bonuses.”
The company has to consider the interests of its shareholders and would find it hard to distribute year-end bonuses if profit declines significantly due to a strike, he said.
EVA has this month seen sales and ridership drop as travelers choose to fly with other airlines to avoid the potential strike, he added.
“The 3,000 flight attendants who are union members need to know that once they launch a strike, they would also affect their colleagues, including pilots, ground staff and employees of Evergreen Sky Catering Corp （長榮空廚）, as corporate profit would plunge,” Kou said.
EVA would discuss internally whether “canceling the employee ticket discounts of flight attendants who participate in the strike” would breach the act, he said.
An EVA Airways announcement issued on Wednesday in reaction to a possible strike by the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union is pictured. Photo courtesy of EVA Air