Social media becomes quicksand for Cathay staff

Money Glitz | BLOOMBERG 26 Aug 2019

Cathay Pacific Airways (0293), trying to contain the damage it has suffered from staff taking part in protests, cautioned employees that misuse of social-media platforms could be a breach of rules set by China's authorities.

In a message to employees, Cathay said that posting, responding and sharing content on social media could go against the demands the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued to the carrier this month.

Rebecca Sy, chairwoman of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines' Flight Attendants' Association and had worked with Cathay Dragon for 17 years, was given the choice of resigning or being fired last week, since the company management found her involvement in the anti-fugitive-bill protest from her Facebook posts.

Cathay said that Sy's departure has nothing to do with her union leadership role or her union activities.

"Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, when deciding whether to terminate an employee, we take into account all relevant circumstances including applicable regulatory requirements and the employee's ability to perform his/her job," the airline replied, and reiterated that it does not in any way discriminate against union members or their activities.

"Any actions taken by the group with regards to our employees is always in strict accordance with the terms of their relevant employment contracts as well as applicable laws and regulations," it said.

"Employees should always exercise caution about how their social media usage may be relevant to their own employment, the welfare of others and the business," Cathay said in an early notice. "Any employee who participates in illegal activities will be subject to an investigation process which may lead to termination of their employment."

China's aviation authority this month barred Cathay staff who took part in or supported the demonstrations from flying to the mainland and demanded the carrier provide a plan for improving flight safety and security. Cathay generates about half of its revenue from operations in Hong Kong and China.

The airline said last Wednesday that it expects "significant impact" on its revenue from August and beyond as travel demand gets affected by the protests.

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