Cathay flight attendants threaten holiday action

Updated: 2012-12-04 06:58

By Kahon Chan(HK Edition)

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 Cathay flight attendants threaten holiday action

Cathay Pacific flight attendants protest at the Hong Kong International Airport on Monday to call for a bigger pay rise than the proposed 2 percent by the company. The union warned of an industrial action during holiday season unless the management resumes talks with them on pay and other demands. Photo Provided to China Daily

Cathay flight attendants threaten holiday action

Union dismisses 2% salary rise as 'mean', a drop in the bucket

Holiday plans for those booked on Cathay Pacific may be in doubt, as flight attendants threatened to take industrial action over unmet salary demands. Flight attendants, who are demanding a 5 percent salary increase, called the company's offer of a 2 percent raise as being "mean".

About 200 off-duty flight attendants marched through the check-in hall at the carrier's hub on Monday afternoon to express their outrage over the company's salary offer for next year.

Many dropped coins into a stone ware bowl held by a fellow crew member wearing a mask fashioned to look like the airline's chief executive, John Slosar. The gesture was to show the employees contempt for what they called a mere drop in the bucket, against inflation rising above 3 percent.

Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants' Union explained in a statement on Monday that flight crews who are paid hourly will receive about HK$210 to HK$400 more per month, while those who are paid on a monthly basis will not see much difference, because their contracts already guarantee a salary increment.

The union also bashed management for forcing the union to accept the proposal before the negotiations yielded any outcome. The company's announcement on Friday was characterized by the union as violating "the spirit of negotiation in good faith".

Unless management agrees to return to the bargaining table with the union before 3 pm on Tuesday, the union says it will begin preparing for industrial action. The union declined to disclose details of its plan.

"We are giving one day for (the management of) Cathay Pacific to consider returning to the negotiation, or else we will launch the task force for industrial action. Passengers' journeys during the holiday season could then be affected," warned Dora Lai Yuk-sim, chairwoman of the union.

The union also demanded the airline improve flight combinations to avoid red-eye turn arounds, and to improve appeal procedures dealing with disciplinary matters.

The airline had not responded to the call as of Monday evening. Liza Ng, the General Manager of Cabin Crew at the airline, reiterated at a press briefing that the proposed raise was fixed, in view of the challenging market faced by the aviation industry.

Ng recounted that the management and the union have held eight meetings since late October, but she avoided questions on whether there is room to revise the salary offer.

"I believe the majority of our colleagues will not bring inconvenience to passengers and other associates," said Ng, adding that any industrial action will upset hardworking residents who have looked forward to a winter break abroad.

Through a statement issued late Monday, the airline said it was crucial for a responsible corporation to strike a balance between the interests of all stakeholders. It urged the union to remain calm and put the interest of public first.

The airline's chief, John Slosar, wrote in an internal publication last month that soaring fuel costs and dwindling yields of all cabins have made 2012 "a very challenging year". But the union argued that the current woes are not on par with the difficulties during the SARS pandemic in 2003 or the financial meltdown in 2008.

(HK Edition 12/04/2012 page1)