Taiwan Business in Brief – April 2020

Photo: ©KCS 2017. From Wikimedia Commons.

Airlines Cope with COVID-19 Shocks 

Taiwan’s airlines have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Border controls in both Taiwan and in other countries throughout the world have stiffened, and demand for air travel has dropped sharply. As a result, local carriers EVA and China Airlines and their subsidiaries have been forced to completely cancel or limit flights to numerous destinations. Passenger levels on Taiwanese airlines reportedly decreased by 50% in February and are expected to drop even lower as the coronavirus continues to spread outside of China. 

China Airlines has begun offering refunds to passengers whose flights are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Travelers whose tickets were purchased between January 20 and April 30 but who are barred from entering Taiwan are eligible for a full refund of their ticket price. No service charge or penalty will apply.  

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications on March 16 announced plans to provide a NT$30 billion (US$1 billion) aid package to airlines operating on the island. The package will include loans for project financing, as well as subsidies for coping measures taken by airlines dating back to January 15.  

Fisheries Singled Out for Abuse 

A recent report from Greenpeace, the international environmental NGO, has alleged continued regular abuse of foreign workers aboard Taiwanese distant-water fishing fleets. Labor malpractices were said to include withholding wages, forced labor and overtime, and confiscating passports, among others.  

According to the report, the abuse is institutionalized. For foreign workers employed on ships outside Taiwan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the law regulating their conditions is different from the one pertaining to their Taiwanese counterparts. Under that law, foreign workers may be paid significantly less than the Taiwanese crew members, and technically can be asked to work up to 14 hours per day. The report says such differences in treatment contravene the International Labor Organization’s convention on discrimination.  

The Greenpeace report also alleges that illicit practices such as shark finning and illegal transshipments are commonplace among Taiwanese fishing vessels. Two of the ships Greenpeace investigated belong to Fong Chun Formosa, which recently acquired bankrupt U.S. canned foods company Bumble Bee and is one of the largest providers of tuna in the world. 

Taiwan’s fishing industry has previously come under fire for alleged “illegal, unreported, and unregulated” (IUU) fishing and ill-treatment of workers. Reports of widespread IUU activities, including killing dolphins and turtles, led the European Commission in 2015 to issue Taiwan a “yellow card” warning.