When I read “strike in China” this evening, I was wondering because “China” and “strike” in one phrase were unfamiliar to me. Furthermore, this is not a usual strike like in western countries, but a special one. The way some Chinese pilots want to express their resentment is even more unusual than a strike in China itself.
Many Chinese pilots are unhappy about their conditions of work. They say they have too many working hours and bad pay. Besides, several established airlines have contracts with the pilots which require huge amounts of money in the case of leaving the airline for a competitor. Thus, these pilots don’t profit from the current boom in Chinese aviation which faces a shortage of pilots. Now, they demand an adequate participation in the economic rise of China and the new found wealth.
But just going on strike like in western countries is not very common in China. Indeed, the pilots of China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Air which went on strike came up with a couple of creative ideas. One day about 40 pilots of Shanghai Air called in sick and consequently flights had to be canceled and long delays occurred. Even more bizarre was what some pilots of China Eastern did: They departed regularly from Kunming but on half the distance to the destination airport they returned to the departure airport.
At first, China Eastern tried to justify the disruption as of technical reasons or bad weather. But passengers told the story differently and China Eastern eventually had to admit the pilots’ protest. Finally, China Eastern has been fined over $215,000 by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China and in addition, China Eastern has been suspended some operating licenses. Now there are rumors that the pilots might indeed get a pay rise.