A FORMER senior airline captain took Cathay Pacific to the Labour Tribunal yesterday, claiming he was unfairly dismissed after 21 years' service. Val McCarthy, 54, who returned to Hong Kong from Britain for the hearing, also alleged the airline had unreasonably taken back $53,000 in salary increases, given to him between January and July last year. Louis Fung, presiding officer of the Labour Tribunal at Eastern Court, heard the dispute began in May 1993, when Mr McCarthy decided to transfer to Britain because he was due to retire at 55. Because of his decision he resigned from Cathay in March and joined Veta Limited, a subsidiary of the airline. Meanwhile, Cathay was withholding a five per cent salary increase offered to staff because negotiations were still going on with the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers' Association. Because Mr McCarthy had to cash in his pension Cathay agreed to give him the five per cent rise. The pilot said he was entitled to any further increase reached between the airline and the association. Wage talks failed but in July last year Cathay sent staff contracts which included an eight per cent increase provided productivity increased. But those who preferred their old contracts would only receive a 1.2 per cent pay rise from July. When the pilot opted for his old contract Cathay deducted the five per cent increase from his pay and he was also told to repay his pension increase. Cathay's personnel manager, Victor Ho, argued the payments were temporary and given on an individual basis, in an attempt to smooth the payment of Mr McCarthy's pension. Mr McCarthy, who was due to retire in October this year, was fired on January 4. Cathay earlier denied the salary row was related to his sacking. The hearing continues today.