Cathay Pacific customers may face flight disruptions in the run-up to Christmas if the airline does not resume talks with the union on next year's pay rise, the airline's cabin crew union says.
The 6,000-strong Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union issued the threat after its members voted in favour of giving it full power to initiate industrial action at an appropriate time. Two actions - a work-to-rule and the provision of limited services to passengers - might take place before Christmas, union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim said yesterday.
A third plan - to strike - would happen only during New Year's Eve at the earliest so as to limit disruption to passengers, Lai said. "If [travellers] think that taking Cathay Pacific will disrupt their schedules, it's time they switched to other airlines."
Cathay's general manager of cabin crew, Liza Ng, said the airline had written to the union expressing willingness to resume talks on topics other than the pay rise if it dropped plans for industrial action.
Ng said the airline had prepared contingency plans in case of industrial action, but she did not reveal the details.
On November 30, the airline announced that its flight attendants would get a 2 per cent pay rise next year instead of the 5 per cent that the union had asked for.
Other issues include flight attendants' complaints of not enough rest between flights, and a cross-base flying scheme for non-local crew that the union fears will see local crew replaced.
More than 1,600 union members voted at an emergency general meeting after the airline refused further talks on pay rises. They also approved letting the union use its HK$4 million emergency fund for industrial actions.
"We will issue action guidelines to our members at a suitable time to inform them when and how industrial action will take place," Lai said.
The last union-led strike was in 1993 and lasted 17 days.
Lai said flight delays were expected if the union carried out a work-to-rule - doing only the minimum required of their contract - although she could not say how long the delays might last. "We will board the planes to do our preparations only after the cleaners and catering staff have finished their jobs on board."
Lai also said the union might ask its members not to serve food or drinks on board. Cathay had no rules that required flight attendants to serve food and drinks to travellers, she noted.
Lai said she realised that a strike would inconvenience passengers more than the two other plans and so it would not take place during Christmas.
"A strike is the last thing we want to see," said Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung.
"I hope both sides can stay cool and work out something. The benefits of consumers should always be the top priority," he said.
Tung added: "We cannot ask consumers not to book Cathay Pacific flights because there could be a strike. But in the worst case, I believe Cathay … would have contingency plans to look after affected travellers who have booked their flights."
Cathay reported a HK$935 million loss in the first half of this year, hit by sluggish cargo business and falling ticket prices.
Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung