Cathay Pacific

Cathay boss stands firm ahead of pay talks

Chief executive stays firm on offer to flight attendants but stresses airline remains open-minded in seeking common ground

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 4:11pm

Cathay Pacific is seeking common ground with its flight attendants union even though its already rejected offer of a 2 per cent pay rise is "very much" a final decision, chief executive John Slosar said.

In an interview yesterday on the eve of talks resuming with the union today, Slosar said he could not describe himself as positive that the dispute over next year's pay rise and other matters could be resolved within a few days as negotiations had not yet started.

But he stressed that the airline would be open-minded in an effort to reach common ground.

"If you go back and look at the past, things can normally get resolved quickly," he said.

His comments came as the union also criticised the airline for its announcement that cabin crew flying to Riyadh would not get a night's rest in a hotel there, instead having to rest in-flight on the journey back to Hong Kong. The union said this would be exhausting for the crew, and criticised the airline for announcing such an "inhuman" measure ahead of today's negotiations.

The pay dispute was sparked after the airline announced on November 30 that its flight attendants would get a 2 per cent pay rise next year instead of the 5 per cent the union had sought.

The 6,000-strong Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union has threatened industrial action - a work-to-rule or limited services - before Christmas, escalating to a strike on New Year's Eve.

Asked if the 2 per cent offer was final, Slosar said: "Very much so. We've already announced that for all our Hong Kong-based staff, and we're certainly not going to change it for this group or that group."

The union has also called for the scrapping of a cross-base flying scheme for cheaper non-local cabin crew it fears will gradually replace local crew. Slosar said 60 per cent of the foreign-based cabin crew were actually Hong Kong identity card holders who needed to stay overseas for reasons such as that their families were there.

He fended off claims that overseas cabin crew were cheaper, saying that while those in Thailand were, those in countries like Canada and Britain were not.

He also rejected criticism that the airline was lowering outport allowances - paid to cover flight attendants' expenses during overseas stays between flights - saying the average allowance had gone up by 9.6 per cent this year.

On the union's demand for suspension of "red-eye flights" - when cabin crew had to work overnight with only about one hour between shifts - Slosar said there were only about three such flights in a day.

He said he hoped the union would not take industrial action. "We take very seriously the need to get customers to their destinations," he said.