Taipei-Tokyo route launched amid protests


Aviation union workers, among them former Japan Airlines staff in Taiwan that were laid-off three months ago, raise signs in protest at Songshan Airport yesterday. (CNA)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — On a day when flights between the city airports of Taipei and Tokyo resumed after a 31-year hiatus, around 50 aviation union workers gathered outside the Taipei airport to protest what they called the illegal dismissal of 70 workers by Japan Airlines (JAL) in July.

The protesters, holding cardboard signs with slogans such as “Butcher of East Asia” and “Taiwan is no longer a colony of Japan,” accused JAL of being contemptuous of Taiwanese people and the employees' working rights.

“We can't understand why JAL only bullied Taiwanese workers but was afraid to lay off staff in China,” said protester Lin Chia-wei. “It's a clear sign that this Japanese company despises Taiwan.”

Four protesters even broke through police lines and ran toward visiting Tokyo metropolitan councilors during a welcoming ceremony after the arrival of their historic flight at Taipei International Airport (Songshan Airport) from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport).

The protesters hoped to appeal their case to the councilors, but they were forced away by the police.

The layoffs were part of a plan by JAL to reduce its global work force by a third this year as part of a restructuring plan after filing for bankruptcy in January.

The protesters also expressed anger at the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) for not standing up for them even though Taipei City's Department of Labor ruled the JAL layoffs illegal on Oct. 19, but they did not specify how the layoffs broke Taiwan's labor laws.

“We urge the Japanese government to take this issue seriously for the sake of harmonious bilateral relationships between Taiwan and Japan,” said Yang Shao-yung, the chairman of the aviation union.

The protesters, who rallied outside the CLA and Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) earlier this month, said they would continue their campaign until Sunday afternoon, when former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scheduled to arrive.

Abe, in Taiwan on a two-day trip, is expected to meet with President Ma Ying-jeou.