Former Japan Airlines employees stage protest

Source: Taipei Times

KICKING UP A STINK: The laid-off workers described the government as being ‘incompetent’ in fighting for their rights and said they will hold more protests on Saturday.

By Shelley Huang / Staff Reporter

Former employees of Japan Airlines’ (JAL) Taiwan branch yesterday gathered in front of the Council of Labor Affairs in Taipei to protest against what they called the council’s turning a blind eye to illegal mass layoffs by the company.

The former employees and labor activists said that in July, JAL illegally laid off 70 Taiwanese flight attendants, many of whom were union members or senior employees who were close to retirement.

Four months ago, JAL announced restructuring plans that included a 30 percent cut in its global workforce and additional financing to keep it flying after filing for bankruptcy protection in January.

Shouting “JAL walks all over Taiwanese workers,” dozens of protesters gathered in front of the building, saying the company had mistreated them and that the government had failed in its duty to resolve the labor dispute.

The demonstrators said that while JAL had cited financial difficulties as the reason behind the move, laid-off employees claimed the real reason was intentional discrimination against Taiwanese, older employees and women, -because female Taiwanese flight attendants were replaced by younger Japanese workers.

As some of the senior flight attendants that were laid off were originally scheduled to retire from the airline within a year, the former employees alleged that they were laid off because the company did not want to pay their pensions.

Even though Taipei City’s Department of Labor Affairs last week issued a NT$600,000 fine against JAL’s Taiwan branch for age discrimination in the workplace, the company has not rehired the laid-off employees.

The department has said the airline failed to provide solid evidence to support its claim that the decision was made after a careful evaluation of the costs and individual workers’ performance.

“The government has been incompetent in fighting for our rights,” a former JAL employee said. “[JAL] treats us like disposable workers. After it was done using us, it just threw us away.”

The protesters said they were angered by the fact that government officials were unable to protect them. They said they would come back during the flag-raising ceremony on New Year’s Day to throw feces at the Presidential Office.

In response, the council said the city’s labor department had facilitated labor-management negotiations between the two sides on three occasions, but they were unable to reach a consensus. However, as the case has entered legal proceedings, the council would provide assistance in the event of litigation, officials said.

Representatives from airport labor unions yesterday hold up ox dung in front of the Council of Labor Affairs to show their anger as they protest against Japan Airlines for what they claim was the illegal dismissal of Taiwanese workers.