Sacking survivors seek contract leeway

Top News | Sophie Hui 23 Oct 2020

Cathay Pacific crew who were not terminated are appealing to the company to shorten their contract period so that harsh terms - including a 36 percent pay cut - can be lifted in three years when the aviation industry recovers.

The flag carrier sacked a total of 5,300 employees in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Around 2,000 flight attendants and 600 pilots received e-mails about their termination that day, while around 700 backbench staff were notified yesterday.

Those who were not let go will have to agree to new contract terms.

Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union chairwoman Zuki Wong Sze-man said the union has written to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan to intervene.

"The company expects that passenger traffic can return to prepandemic levels in a few years, so this contract should only be valid for two or three years, and not be a permanent pay cut," Wong said.

Cathay got a HK$27.3 billion bailout package from the government in June. Wong said the company should think about how to save expenses and ride out the hard times together with staff, instead of laying off employees.

Flight attendants will have a basic salary of HK$12,000 and cabin service managers about HK$33,000. Their hourly rates will range from HK$180 to HK$475. They must fly at least 70 hours a month, otherwise they will receive only the basic salary.

Pilots will see their combined salary and benefits slashed by 40 to 60 percent. For deputy pilots, basic salaries will decrease to HK$50,000 - from HK$80,000.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions protested outside the head office of Swire group - which owns Cathay - in Admiralty yesterday.

Union chairwoman Carol Ng Man-yee said new contracts for pilots call for a 12-month probation period, meaning employees can be terminated within a month's notice.

Cathay also ditched its subsidiary Cathay Dragon, which ceased operations from Wednesday.

Speaking on radio yesterday, a pregnant flight attendant named Joey, who had been working for Cathay Dragon for over 10 years, said she and other pregnant workers did not receive a termination notice. She hoped Cathay would not lay her off before giving birth so she can receive her salary and maternity benefits.

She said in the past, staff were willing to get through difficult times with the company as they believed in a positive future.

"Why did the company decide to abandon us when everyone is in trouble?" she said.

A Cathay spokeswoman said that since pregnant staff are taking maternity leave, they will receive notices only after their maternity leave ends.

Separately, the Union Hospital's school of nursing will offer a free care-related-support worker training program to 100 sacked employees. If they perform well, they may be recruited by the private hospital after.

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