Cathay cabin crew quit-age talks set

Top News | Sophie Hui 14 Sep 2017

Fifty-five percent of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific flight attendants support extending the retirement age from 55 to 60 - more than the required 50 percent trigger for the airline to hold discussions with the flight attendants' union, according to sources.

Cathay conducted a survey from August 16 to September 11 among 9,032 Hong Kong-based flight attendants and found that 55 percent favored extending the retirement age, sources said.

Of the 6,187 flight attendants who responded to the poll, 5,007 favored raising the retirement age to 60 years. A total of 1,174 objected, some survey returns were deemed invalid, while the rest did not respond to the poll.

Cathay said that as long as over half of the flight attendants support the proposed extension, it will engage in discussions with the union.

Describing the result as encouraging, the union said: "Although the retirement age has not been the same as that for pilots, at least flight attendants can choose to work until 60 according to their personal needs."

Vera Wu Yee-mei, who heads the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants' Union, confirmed that the union and Cathay officials will meet on Tuesday.

Wu said it is too early for attendants to retire at 55 and that the current retirement age is a form of discrimination. "It is difficult for them to find another job [after 55]," she said.

She said the union will discuss with Cathay how to implement the new policy and arrangements for extending work contracts beyond 55, such as salary levels and medical insurance.

Wu admitted that salary levels may not be the same as before when attendants are beyond 55, but the union will fight for the best benefits for staff.

She said the new retirement age has to be implemented by the end of the year. "We understand the company has its own difficulties, but it is necessary for us to preserve our rights," Wu said.

Cathay said the retirement age working group, which includes representatives from the union and other stakeholders, has been discussing the issue since last year. It said "it is clear that different views exist among our people" based on the survey results.

"We are sensitive to the fact that some of our people will view the outcome less positively. However, the working group will, as per the agreement reached by all parties, continue to pursue the next step going forward to find a befitting arrangement for the benefit of everyone," it said.

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