BA guilty of breaching rights of HK cabin crew union chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am

British Airways has been fined for breaching the labour rights of the head of its Hong Kong cabin crew union, in the first successful prosecution of its kind in Hong Kong.

The airline pleaded guilty at Eastern Court yesterday to a charge of preventing or deterring Carol Ng Man-yee, the head of the BA Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association, from exercising her rights under the Employment Ordinance to take part in trade union activities. It was fined $5,000.

The airline, which had pleaded not guilty in March, said it accepted the court ruling and was 'comfortable that this low fine reflects the seriousness of the case'.

'It was never our intention to make Ms Ng feel that she has suffered any detriment because of her associated activity. We are sorry that Ms Ng felt she was treated unfairly in this matter,' a British Airways' spokesman said.

The court heard earlier that the airline informally monitored Ms Ng for a year, after having issued her written and verbal conduct warnings in August last year, according to a Labour Department summons.

The airline's actions are believed to have followed comments Ms Ng made to the media during a Labour Tribunal hearing in April over a 2002 pay cut. The tribunal ruled in the union's favour and ordered the airline to restore pay cuts totalling $500,000 imposed on 90 staff.

Ms Ng was said to have been told by the airline that she had breached a regulation banning unauthorised disclosure of company information.

Ms Ng said that although supervisors praised her as 'pleasant and cheerful' during her annual appraisal, the company added a remark about the informal monitoring, which was unfair to her.

Ms Ng, who has worked as a cabin crew member at the airliner for more than 13 years, said she was 'delighted and feel justice has been served after a painful two-and-a-half-year torture'.

'We purely want this case to become an example for them and for all Hong Kong unions.'

Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Union, said the verdict was only a minor victory.

'The law itself is very difficult to prosecute in such a way that you have to prove the intent of the employer in discriminating the employee,' he said. He urged the government to lift the maximum penalty for deterring staff from taking part in trade union activities from a $100,000 fine to a $200,000 fine and a year of imprisonment.