• Sat
  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 6:47am
Cathay Pacific
NewsHong Kong

Summer holiday flights under threat as Cathay pay talks break down

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 11:29am

Hong Kong passengers could have their summer holiday flights disrupted after protracted pay talks between Cathay Pacific and its pilots broke down.

The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers' Association says cockpit crew may work to rule, known as contract compliance, during the peak travel period in July unless the bitter stalemate is resolved. The union declared an impasse and called for mediation on Friday after successive rounds of pay talks failed.

If mediation fails, pilots are entitled to work to rule under the terms of its "good faith bargaining framework agreement" with bosses, union sources say.

Cathay insisted yesterday it was "committed" to reaching a deal on pay and livelihood issues under discussion since last year, when a previous three-year deal expired. A management source also pointed out that the airline had managed to operate normally during previous work-to-rule protests by pilots.

The union's general secretary, Chris Beebe, said pilots were "frustrated and increasingly impatient" at the lack of progress and said contract compliance could not be ruled out.

"Pilots last had an agreement for pay increases in 2010 and that covered through to 2013. For one year now we've been in negotiations hoping to get the pilots a pay rise and some improvements in their quality of life," he said.

"There is quite a bit of frustration. … The negotiations have proceeded at a glacial pace."

A source close to the talks said any decision to work to rule was "some distance down the line", but that the impasse made industrial action more likely.

Asked whether a work-to-rule move was likely, Beebe said: "I can't rule it out as a possibility. Certainly pilots have the right to call for contract compliance, but right now what we must do is adhere to the … bargaining framework. We are hopeful that the company will become more reasonable. … Pilots are frustrated and increasingly impatient."

The union is also concerned about a proposal to reduce the number of pilots on some long-haul routes from Europe from four to three. "We are concerned about the amount of fatigue pilots are subjected to if they don't have adequate crewing," Beebe said. "It is not only an industrial issue but a safety issue."

The company's spokeswoman said the smaller crews were "in line with the standard practice of other carriers" and would "involve only a small number of flights".

Pilots' frustration has intensified after Cathay reached a pay agreement with cabin crew and other staff earlier this year.

Cathay is understood to have had a pay offer of about 4 per cent rejected by the pilots. In a statement, it said four week-long negotiating sessions had taken place since November, covering pay, rostering, allowances, housing and basing. It said more talks were scheduled.

"It is the company's expectation that we will continue negotiations," Cathay said. "Cathay Pacific has shown throughout this process that it is fully committed to achieving agreement.

"An opportunity for mediation is part of an agreed framework and the parties have agreed that no action will be taken whilst this process is ongoing."

The two sides now have four weeks to agree on the identities of the mediators, after which three days of mediation will take place.


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The reality is that pilot compensation has decreased tremendously over the past 20+ years due to inflation, changes in work rules, changes to contract details, etc. The ISSUE is inequality over compensation. CEO and upper management compensation continues to grow as average worker compensation decreases. This hurts everyone in the economy. We all need to educate ourselves on economics and what is happening in Hong Kong. A win for the pilots is in fact a win for Hong Kong. When the middle class is getting economically squeezed, it hurts the overall economy. Newly hired Cathay pilots make about HALF of what their predecessors did only 5-6 years ago. Where is the money going? NOT to the consumer. It goes straight to the pockets of middle and upper management. That hurts the economy because less people are making more of the money, but they won't spend it in the same fashion -- they won't be making purchases at your shop the way the pilots would. The pilots support families, and send their children to school, too. The real problem is that CEOs and MGMT are getting compensated a disproportionate amount. CX pilots are some of the most professional in the industry. And, it DOES make a difference. Each flight crew makes many vital decisions throughout the duration of a flight to ensure the safety of the passengers, night and day, on sunny days and during typhoons. The greed comes from the Management. Watch the film Inequality for All to understand what this is about.
Air fares should be cheap because air traffic routes are a common good that belong to all the HK people, and not monopolised by one single carrier- able to keep wages high.
What we need is further opening up and liberalisation of HK's airline industry, this will ensure more choices, bring down pilot wages and ticket prices.
We also won't have our travel plans disrupted by one single carrier having problems.
You are correct that HK would benefit from more competition, however your continual focus on pilot wages being the problem shows that you are either grossly misinformed, or disingenuous. It is a well known fact that Cathay cut housing payments and high salaries for pilots many years ago.
At the end of the day , it's up to the regulators ( CAD) , And passengers to decide if an airline is safe enough , and economics and management will decide how much to pay pilots.
It's not up to The threat of industrial action and definitely not up to pilots to decide; and hold all of HK at ransom.
Since it's up to the market to decide , than passengers must have a choice to make. And as it is now, with the mushrooming of so many low cost carriers , customers don't see a relationship of high salary and high safety standards and neither does management.
That's why the threat of this strike.
Airlines will not put passengers at risk by over working the pilots. The reason is it's more costly economic wise to risk their safety reputation. Not because they care so much about the pilots well being.
Define over-working pilots? Pilots who fall asleep in the cockpit? Pilots who deal with unclear thinking due to fatigue? Pilots who are stressed, and have health issues as a result? All of that and more happens on airlines. Fatigue is greatly under reported because, well, pilots often are so tired at the end of a flight that they don't even bother. Reality is you're really unfamiliar with what life is like for pilots. Sleep deprivation is a real, serious issue, and airline management is working to "improve efficiency" by working pilots more each month, and by reducing crew complements. Flights to Australia that are generally crewed with three pilots may change to two, meaning there will be no inflight relief on these long flights. European flights that normally have four pilots may have their crews reduced to three. The consequences are greater fatigue. Fatigue that can have serious consequences if decisions to divert need to be made in the face of a typhoon at the end of a long flight, or in the case of an inflight emergency. The margins for error are getting smaller and smaller.
Maybe in a perfect world that would be true. In the real world however...
@Charlie212, Any pilot with a PPL with 60 hours ,not to mention ATPL can follow/hold heading and follow ATC instructions. In China flight schools churn out pilots from zero to multi engine instrument rating flying only in 6 months flat, they don't even do VFR. Than immediately do a type rating on a wide bodied jet. Now, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. No low cost or premium airline can operate these days unless by definition - they are safe.
In America they do a full FAA 141 multi engine and Int Rating in 180 days flat.
I think either you are misinformed or you have a hidden agenda. As has been well publicised in recent years, new regulations have come into force in America that require all new hire airline pilots to have a minimum of 1,500hrs flight experience. This translates to at least a few years experience. Pilot inexperience has been a factor in several high profile accidents lately. Are you suggesting that you would be happy with 60hr pilots flying you around?
Haven't heard of an Air Asia crash due pilot error.
Threat to safety ; demanding higher salary, higher pay plus more rest, over work load etc, is only scaremongering those who don't have any aviation experience. HK CAD monitors and makes sure airlines comply-standards are met. Airlines must comply and are often much more generous than CAD rules.




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