More than 15,000 passengers are said to be stranded in Taipei after cabin crew at EVA Air walked out in a dispute over pay, conditions and labour rights at the Taiwan-based airline. The strike started at 4pm local time on Thursday afternoon and initially resulted in just 16 flights being cancelled. By Friday, the walkout had quickly escalated and EVA Air has been forced to cancel around 79 flights today.
A similar number of flight cancellations are expected on Saturday and Sunday and at present, there doesn’t appear to be any resolution in sight. Cancellations include flights to London, New York JFK and Chicago. Many other regional services like flights to Osaka, Hong Kong and Bangkok have also been axed.
EVA Air is currently offering passengers fee-free flight changes or refunds, as well as compensation amounting to around $250. The airline has currently closed new reservations up to 30th June.
In a major escalation of the dispute, EVA Air is now threatening to sue the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union which instigated the strikes. The airline says the strike is “illegal” and is seeking $1 million in damages for every day the strike continues – that’s the amount that EVA Air says the strike is costing it.
According to the airline, the union has added an additional demand for an independent adjudicator to join the airline’s board who would be responsible for overseeing labour rights. Because this demand wasn’t part of the initial strike ballot, EVA Air says the union is breaking the law.
Over 90% of members belonging to the union voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over ad diem payments and excessively long duty days. The walkout began after last-ditch negotiations between the airline and union representatives broke down on Wednesday.
The head of the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union claims legislators have agreed that the additional demand for a labour rights adjudicator does not count as a “rights dispute” and therefore doesn’t need to be put to a vote of members.
EVA Air was founded in 1989 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Evergreen Marine Corporation. The airline currently serves around 64 destinations and operates a fleet of 79 aircraft.