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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 February 8 - 14  > Union: Save airline pilots from overwork-induced death
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2017 February 8 - 14 [LABOR]

Union: Save airline pilots from overwork-induced death

February 10, 2017
Aviation industry workers are also facing the risk of death from overwork as highlighted by the death of a captain during a flight. The Japan Federation of Aviation Worker’s Unions (Kokuren) on February 5 held a study meeting in Tokyo to discuss the problem of exploitative working conditions in the industry.

In the past two decades, several aviation workers died of stroke, which is often attributed to overwork. According to Kokuren, a captain of Japan Airlines (JAL) died from a stroke while in flight in 1996; a cabin attendant of All Nippon Airways (ANA) died from a stroke in 2000 when in Hong Kong between flights; and a mechanic of Skymark Airlines in 2008 suffered a fatal stroke on his way to work.

In the meeting, Kokuren Vice President Kataoka Minoru described pilots’ harsh working conditions. He noted that JAL intends to increase the upper limit of a pilot’s flight hours from 900 hours to 960 hours per year. Kataoka added that ANA is also forcing its pilots to work as many hours as legally allowed.

Maeda Tamaki, who is in charge of the CA branch of Kokuren, said that JAL plans to increase the maximum allowable flight hours for CAs to 1,000 hours a year, adding that many other carriers force CAs to work until the number of hours they work reaches 1,000 hours, the legal upper limit set by Civil Aeronautics Law.

Ando Haruo of the Kokuren mechanics division stressed that aircraft maintenance is physically demanding because mechanics have to work in the open air both day and night. He cited a survey result that nine out of ten mechanics have concerns that they may develop health problems before their retirement.

Another Kokuren Vice President Shimada Satoshi said that as ground handlers in both JAL and ANA group companies shoulder heavier workloads due to increases in the number of flights, their turnover rate remain high. He called for higher wages and less overtime hours in order to deal effectively with the staff shortage issue.

Kokuren advisor Okudaira Takashi stated that aviation industry workers are facing a severe health risk because they have to work night shifts and frequently suffer from jet lag. He underscored the need to raise public awareness concerning the fact that the degree of health damage is related to not only the number of hours worked but also the harshness of work. Okudaira said that unions have an important role to play in protecting workers’ health and lives.

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