Cathay cabin crew demand 5pc pay rise and wage freeze for managers who made wrong call on fuel prices
Union also wants retirement age extended by 10 years to 65
Cathay Pacific Airways’ cabin crew union is demanding a pay rise of 5 per cent next year and an extension of their retirement age from 55 to 65, as Hong Kong’s flagship airline faces headwinds on profitability.
The 7,200-member Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union also demanded senior managers have their pay frozen for placing wrong-way bets on fuel prices that incurred a HK$4.49 billion loss in the first half of the year.
The union, representing about 80 per cent of the airline’s flight attendants, told management that they needed to stop treating staff as a “commodity” that will “expire” at the age of 55.
“The company suffered a huge loss from fuel-hedging. But the management should not require staff to bear responsibility for the misinvestments,” union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim said on Monday.
The union will press its demands at the annual year-end negotiations that start next Monday and that will be closely watched by travellers. When talks have broken down in previous years, the union has threatened management with industrial action, usually in the form of a work-to-rule, which could lead to flight delays and cancellations.
In August the airline announced that its net income had slumped 82 per cent to HK$353 million in the first six months this year compared with the same period last year.
The cabin crew union said the retirement age of some airlines, including China Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Philippine Airlines, was 65.
What the union found unfair was that the retirement age of Cathay’s cabin crew in London was also 65. The airline had not set a mandatory retirement age for flight attendants based in the United States.
“Why are we the Hong Kong crew treated differently from how other outport crews are treated? Is the company discriminating against us?” Lai asked.
The problem with retiring at 55 is that the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority allows people to withdraw their retirement fund only from the age of 65, or 60 if special applications are filed. That means cabin crew have to wait several years after retiring before getting their MPF savings.
Lai said the airline had told the union earlier that if the retirement age was extended it would affect the promotion prospects of younger colleagues.
A Cathay spokesman said the airline’s retirement age policies were consistent with Hong Kong law and that there were “different regulatory requirements” for cabin crew based outside the city.
“We understand that retirement age is a very important issue for many cabin crew. This is a complex issue that involves numerous factors for consideration, including career progression for those who joined the company in recent times. We are acutely aware that there are also differences in opinion among the crew community,” he said.
“Cathay Pacific is an equal opportunity employer. Age is not a factor in staff recruitment, training and promotion.”
Professor Chou Kee-lee of the Education University of Hong Kong supported the government setting a statutory retirement age of 65. He said this was a suitable age because Hong Kong people had the highest life expectancy in the world and so needed to work longer to save more money.