Cathay Pacific

Cathay compromises, but strike threat stays

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am

Cathay Pacific flight attendants have kept open the prospect of a strike that may disrupt air traffic during the Christmas peak season although the airline offered a compromise in the row over their medical benefits.

Cathay said yesterday that it would offer 10 free clinical visits to the 10,000 Hong Kong-based staff and their families in the new year - an apparent backdown on a much criticised medical plan that requires employees to pay HK$30 to HK$50 for each visit to a doctor from January 1.

But Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union chairwoman Becky Kwan Siu-wah said they would not accept any arrangement that required them to pay.

She called for flight attendants to join a protest in Central on Thursday to show their dismay.

'A labour strike is a last resort ... others think we are threatening the public, but it is the airline who is threatening us.'

Cathay's general manager for corporate communications, Dane Cheng, said the medical plan was more generous than those of the government and big corporations.

'The co-pay policy requires only nominal sharing from the staff,' he said.

'Regardless of how much their medical bills are, they only have to pay HK$30, but they are not even willing to pay that ... still, we decided to make the compromise after hearing their voices and considering the public's need for a stable flight service during the holiday season.'

The old medical insurance policy did not require staff to pay but offered less coverage.

Mr Cheng declined to say if the company would make further concessions but stressed that backup staff would be deployed if a strike was called.

Ms Kwan said the union also wanted the airline to address other issues in the negotiations, including the attendants' holiday pay, annual leave and an equal retirement age for all staff.

But Mr Cheng said this was not the right time.