NO HOLDS BARRED: The union said flight attendants must come in person to pick up their documents, after the carrier accused it of making the procedure too complicated
By Lisa Wang and Ann Maxon / Staff reporters
EVA Airways Corp （長榮航空） yesterday accused the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union of withholding about 100 flight attendants’ IDs to stop them from ending their participation in a strike — a charge that the union denied.
The comment came as the EVA flight attendants’ strike entered its sixth day with both parties still divided over key issues regarding the appointment of a labor representative to the airline’s board, the “free-rider clause” and perk adjustments.
Several flight attendants have indicated a desire to return to work, saying the union has kept certain information secret, EVA public relations vice president David Chen （陳耀銘） told a media briefing in Taipei.
“As of yesterday, more than 100 flight attendants had expressed their intention to retreat from the strike and their willingness to go back to work,” Chen said. “The number is on the rise.”
However, the flight attendants were frustrated by the union’s complex requirements to retrieve their IDs, the airline said.
To join the strike, the flight attendants had to give the union their passports, Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents and EVA Air employee ID cards to show their determination.
The airline said that it has obtained the legal right to represent flight attendants who wish to reclaim their IDs, but they were unsuccessful.
“The union had several excuses, including the absence of its lawyer. We are assisting them in seeking police help in dealing with this issue,” Chen said.
The union has breached Article 32 of the Passport Act （護照條例） by holding other people’s passports and harming their interests, the airline said.
EVA is seeking help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to renew the flight attendants’ passports, Chen said.
He also called on union representatives to return to the negotiating table with new and detailed proposals for further discussion, but reiterated the company’s opposition to the union’s requests on appointing a labor board director and the “free-rider clause.”
As of yesterday, an estimated 248 flights had been canceled because of the strike, causing about NT$1.07 billion （US$34.39 million） in revenue losses, EVA said in a filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange.
Rejecting the carrier’s accusations, union representative Liao Yi-chin （廖以勤） said that only three union members had retrieved their identification documents.
A few others had asked to retrieve them through company representatives with authorization letters, but the union told them to pick up the documents in person, she said in Taoyuan’s Nankan （南崁）.
Since the documents contain important personal information, the union needs to ensure that members indeed want them back, she said.
“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,” she said.
Union members had signed a contract agreeing to place their passports and other documents in the union’s care, union lawyer Cheng Li-chuan （程立全） said.
To retrieve them, members need to follow the union’s procedures and fill out a new form in person, he added.
The union is not legally required to respond to the company’s demands to return members’ passports and other documents based on the authorization letters it provided, Cheng and three other lawyers said in a statement.
Company representatives have made multiple attempts to interfere with the union’s picket line by verbally insulting or threatening members, some of whom might have broken the law, they said.
The union’s lawyers have already collected evidence and would press charges against the company for any illegal behavior, they added.
Additional reporting by CNA
EVA Airways Corp public relations vice president David Chen holds up letters of authorization from flight attendants who wish to return to work during a news conference in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA