The decision by Cathay pilot union members to reinstate a limited form of industrial action over their long-running dispute with management is particularly hard to fathom. No doubt Aircrew Officers' Association officials will not term 'contract compliance' as industrial action at all; but that simply leads to the question: if it's not designed to hurt Cathay Pacific, then why take the action at all? The fact is that contract compliance is a half-hearted measure by a group of workers that knows its position is weak and its options limited. In the same way the wearing of yellow ribbons yesterday by pilots en masse, as a symbol of solidarity with sacked colleagues, was little more than a visually impressive gesture. None of this, of course, in any way reflects on the justice or otherwise of the pilots' cause; but their position has moved beyond a discussion about rights and wrongs. To a large extent, public support, or at least public sympathy, is needed to make an impact in an industrial dispute within a service industry. The pilots have almost none. People's time in recession-hit Hong Kong is focused on clinging on to their jobs and making ends meet. People are having to adjust to severe pay cuts and the constant threat of unemployment. Many are already jobless. The airline industry globally has been hit by a massive downturn in business. Some airlines are fighting for their very survival. Some have already lost that fight. On to this stage march the Cathay pilots who, by most people's standards, are extremely well paid. Their complaint is that they are not happy with the way their rosters are fixed. Right may be on their side; or it may not be. What matters is that they will not win sympathy from outside their ranks. Cathay Pacific, which can justifiably argue that, like other airlines, it is battling a serious recessionary buffeting, also knows this and is unlikely to make concessions of any kind. It is indeed unfortunate that the dispute between the pilots' union and Cathay management has been reduced purely to a tactical struggle rather than an examination of the issues, but the reality is that it has. The pilots should accept the fact that, on this occasion, they have lost that struggle.