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Cathay to sack crew who disrupted flights

CATHAY Pacific said early this morning it was sacking the cabin crew who took part in a surprise strike that forced the cancellation of a London flight and a three-hour delay to another plane.

The 3,200-strong Flight Attendants' Union (FAU) called a wild cat stoppage of services at 10 pm.

The FAU announced its action after an afternoon meeting with senior management broke down.

The cabin crew would continue their action until the management backed down, said an FAU member.

He told the South China Morning Post that ''members could not bear to be taken advantage of by the management anymore''.

Flight CX 251 to London, scheduled for 11.30 pm, was cancelled and all its 243 passengers were put up in hotels pending further arrangements. Flight CX 749 to Johannesburg did not leave until 1.54 am.

The Director of Civil Aviation, Mr Peter Lok Kung-nam, had to issue special permission to allow the plane to take off at such a late hour.

Cathay management said the stoppage was in breach of staff employment conditions and letters were going out to those who took part informing them that their services have been terminated.

Cathay said it was planning to operate all its 55 outgoing flights as scheduled today.

It denounced the union's action, saying it was taken without notice and without any consideration for passengers.

Yesterday's meeting was said to have been adjourned when senior Cathay personnel said they had to consider the union's demands.

The union accused the management of putting them in down-graded jobs to fill vacated positions without any attempt to rehire staff.

The company maintains that this is a long-standing and long-accepted policy.

The FAU is also pushing for better pay.

The company has offered all staff a wage increase of six per cent plus an annual increment, together with a $150 monthly payment. Cathay says the total package is worth between 8.5 and 14 per cent.

But staff demand a cost of living increase plus a merit rise of between 2.5 and three per cent.

The union decided to call the stoppage when the management asked for a few more days to consider their requests.

Cathay Pacific operated dozens of outgoing flights daily and hundreds of passengers could be affected if the management did not climb down, warned the FAU member.

If the strike continues it could affect the busy Chinese New Year holiday period, during which all flights are solidly booked.

The company refused to comment on whether the industrial action could last that long.

''We all have to wait and see,'' said the spokesman.

If services stop, the company could lose up to $50 million a day.

It is believed the strike is the most drastic taken by the union in recent years.