AS the Cathay Pacific dispute enters its 15th day there is growing public weariness over the handling of a strike which seems to offer no immediate resolution. For its part, the Flight Attendants' Union (FAU) has threatened to drag its row with management into the international arena. Were the FAU to succeed, and so far there is no indication it has, it would be detrimental not only to Cathay management and the FAU but to Hongkong's international image. The time has come for both the airline's management and the FAU to recognise that the two-week strike has gone on long enough and that a concerted attempt needs to be made to reach an amicable settlement. From the travelling public's point of view, both sides have their failings. Cathay management is seen to have miscalculated and failed to measure the depth of feeling among staff on the manning issue. The attitude of senior management has given the public the impression, rightly or wrongly, of a company locked into old-fashioned, adversarial industrial labour relations. The tone of public statements by Managing Director Mr Rod Eddington and senior colleagues has been at times overbearing and provocative. At least one management comment over the weekend suggested the dispute boiled down to whether the union could interfere in the company's power of dismissal over its own staff. The FAU, meanwhile, has perhaps failed to see the wider context of a market in serious recession, where Cathay Pacific is one of a tiny handful of airlines still making a profit. While Cathay is in a position to exercise considerable pressure on staff because there are few if any alternative employers for any cabin crew who lose their jobs, might is not necessarily right in this context. However, the airline does have a legitimate claim in wanting to cut operating costs if it is to avoid joining the casualty list of loss-making airlines. If this were to happen, flight attendants could find themselves facing not just ''acting down'' problems but massive layoffs. Throughout the dispute there has been a larger measure of rhetoric on display than common sense. It is difficult to sympathise with management complaints about union intimidation when it has been threatening possible dismissal and warning that those who have not reported for work by midnight might not be considered for duty in February. Despite Mr Eddington's protestations that discipline will only be taken in cases of intimidation against non-striking staff, it offers strike leaders little incentive to resolve the dispute knowing their jobs could be among the first to go. On the other hand, individual acts of intimidation by union militants have almost certainly taken place, even though these are impossible to prove. Certainly the sight of a jeering and cheering picket line must have made some would-be workers join the strikers. However, things have taken such a turn now that no purpose can be served by repeating these accusations day after day. Mr Eddington is right when he says it is wrong for the broader Hongkong union movement to turn the Cathay dispute into a debateon the union right to take collective action without fear of recriminatory procedures. But he was the one to add the question of disciplinary action to the agenda of issues under discussion. For Hongkong's sake, this threat should be withdrawn. Most strikes in other countries end on an agreement of no victimisation. It is a standard expectation of unions. By not agreeing to this, Cathay management looks to be unnecessarily hawkish. The strikers, in return, should undertake to recognise the economic truth of Cathay's situation and work with management to strengthen the company's position, rather than help to undermine it. It is difficult to urge staff representatives to negotiate their own or their members' jobs away. Yet the message may be that unless the two sides can discuss the position rationally, cuts may have to be greater than those already planned. Management and unions are now agreed in principle on the need for a discussion on the subject. That is a good sign that some amicable agreement may eventually be reached. Beyond the rights and wrongs of the dispute itself, however, the strike and Cathay's reaction to it have directed attention to the vagueness of the territory's labour and trade union legislation. While workers have the legal right to join trade unions and cannot apparently be stopped from striking, they are not protected from disciplinary action and dismissal should they stop work. The FAU's call for a change in the law to abolish the right to sack strikers and the interest shown in the dispute by other unions is therefore understandable. Nonetheless, Cathay's point that the politicisation of the talks has made it increasingly difficult to reach a settlement is not without merit. It would take some of the emotive tension out of the debate if the FAU and its supporters were to set aside the question of a worker's right to strike for the present. It is, however, an issue that the Legislative Council should rightly be allowed to debate when the atmosphere is less fully charged.