Pilots, flight attendants decline invite to COVID after-party: human rights abuses cannot be nullified with awards

Both the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union and the Taoyuan Pilots’ Union declined invitations from the Ministry of Health and Welfare to an event labeled as a COVID-19 contribution appreciation and awards party, citing the stigma and deprivation of human rights they suffered over the last three years as the reason for not attending.

The ceremony was held yesterday evening, May 2, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel Taipei, and was hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Chen Chien-jen. The President and Premier awarded trophies to persons deemed meritorious, and expressed sincere gratitude to the people of Taiwan and foreign friends for their self-discipline in uniting to fight the epidemic.

However, flight attendants and pilots were among those most negatively affected by the policies implemented and managed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare via the ad-hoc Central Epidemic Command Center. Both unions declined invitations, saying that deprivation of human rights cannot be nullified by awards.

The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union pointed out that maintaining air transport was an essential function for the country. The union members were careful in protecting themselves while on duty, including wearing masks, gloves, protective clothing, etc., but on top of this they had to endure a cycle of repeated isolation which was a deprivation of basic human rights and freedom. Even basic needs like seeking medical treatment or using public transport were severely restricted. Flight attendants had to go through frequent and constant testing for COVID, subjecting them to physical and psychological harm.

[See previous story: Frequent nasal swabs on pilots causing nosebleeds: a flight safety issue ]

What flight attendants actually need is for the President, the Executive Yuan, the epidemic command center, and the Civil Aviation Administration to fully assist in rehabilitating the reputation of flight attendants and cleaning up the stigma.

The Taoyuan Pilots’ Union also declined the invitation, saying that they had received an invitation to attend the Gratitude and Awards Recognition Party as flight crew were deemed as belonging to so-called “front-line meritorious groups.”

In a press release yesterday, Tuesday, May 2. The pilots’ union said that in fact, the improper epidemic prevention management policy of the Central Epidemic Command Center, and the spread of wrong information, led to witch hunts against flight crew.

The union said that over the past three years it repeatedly issued warnings and suggestions based on science and facts, and also demanded the CECC follow the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) not to treat cross-border crew members as ordinary passengers when it came to quarantine measures. But regrettably, the overwhelming majority of the time, the CECC continued to apply the same quarantine policy for crew members, did not adopt scientific epidemic prevention, but impractical administration methods with an excessive restriction of personal freedom and rights.

[See previous article: Pilots under pressure… ]

“During the more than three years of the epidemic, concrete and irreparable damage has been caused to the physical and mental health and family life of the front cabin crew members,” the press release stated.

“It is precisely because of this that the cadres and some members of the trade union chose to jointly participate in the initiation of an administrative lawsuit against the command center and related personnel’s improper quarantine policies. And this lawsuit itself is our clear position and attitude!”

During the height of COVID madness, a pilot provided Taiwan English News with these pictures of a room in a quarantine hotel where he had to remain for up to 5 days at a time, only allowed to open the door when meals arrived. At first, the pilots were actually locked inside the room. As this was obviously a human rights violation, the policy was changed from locking the pilots in to monitoring the door with a camera to ensure they didn’t leave their confinement.

Former head of the Central Epidemic Command Center, Victor Wang said in an interview that it was a pity that they could not attend. He also admitted that the pilots and flight attendants had a special role in epidemic prevention and border control. They have suffered a lot of wrongs, and he was very grateful to them.

A pilot who spoke to Taiwan English News on the condition that he remains anonymous said that although he is not a union member, he agrees with the Taoyuan Pilots’ Union decision not to attend the ceremony. “It’s a slap in the face and a hypocritical position to now recognize the aviation workers for their contribution,” he said.

“During the pandemic the CECC kept changing the rules based on little science. We were subject to extensive and repetitive quarantines month after month when returning to Taiwan even when we were also locked up in our rooms while abroad.”

“After the absurd quarantines we were also subject to a lot of restrictions that inbound travelers were not. We were grateful to the airlines and the CAA that quickly created the conditions for us to continue working and keeping the airline flying, and of course the cargo flowing in and out of Taiwan.”

“Aviation crews normally face a mentally challenging job, and all the extra pressure we took during the pandemic was hard to endure; but at the same time being used to a demanding job kept us sane. Nevertheless, it was tough,” the pilot said.

As for working conditions now, the pilot told Taiwan English News that the last pandemic restriction to be removed was the mandatory wearing of masks during flights. “When the CECC took out the public transportation mask mandate, April 14, that also removed our mandate,” he said.

“The industry is still recovering, but passenger numbers are growing so I think things are looking good.”

“Some airlines are slow in recovering because pilots have to be retrained.”

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One thought on “Pilots, flight attendants decline invite to COVID after-party: human rights abuses cannot be nullified with awards

  • May 3, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    “a COVID-19 contribution appreciation and awards party” The NOIVE!!! Good on those who stood DOWN and said “Take yer bloody party and STUFF it!” What those responsible for the death, disability and denigration of their victims is not apologize, but simply slit their rotten bellies open in contrition. Publicly.


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