Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific retirement age: should it be down to a vote or matter for EOC to consider?

Meeting between Equal Opportunities Commission and unions raised issues about rights, but airline is still proceeding with referendum

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 9:27pm

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog on Friday weighed in on the dispute between the management and staff of Cathay Pacific over raising the mandatory retirement age for cabin crew.

At a meeting between representatives of labour unions, the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation and the Equal Opportunities Commission, Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, the commission’s chairman, was told that the matter of retirement age was a human rights issue and should not be something determined by a vote.

It also went against Cathay Pacific’s commitment against any type of discrimination, representatives added.

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Hong Kong’s flagship carrier is currently conducting an online survey of its 9,000-plus local workforce to determine whether most cabin crew wanted to raise their retirement age from the current 55 to 60.

“We want the EOC to put pressure on Cathay Pacific to change their age discrimination policy irrespective of what the so-called survey says,” Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan said. “Cathay should [practise] what they preach on non-discrimination.”

Chan said he would request a meeting with Cathay Pacific management to discuss matters raised by the unions.

A spokeswoman for the commission added: “The EOC calls on all stakeholders to work together to create an age-inclusive workplace culture and eliminate stereotypes about age. Indeed, employment-related decisions, including recruitment and promotion, should be made based on relevant qualifications and performance, not age.”

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But Friday’s meeting and the statement by Chan did not alter the airline’s referendum plan.

A spokesman for Cathay Pacific said: “The working group agreed to conduct a survey to ascertain whether the majority of our Hong Kong-based cabin crew desires an extension to retirement age. We are committed to maintaining close communication with our people. We will study the findings and continue discussions as appropriate.”

The poll will close on September 11.

Lee from the Confederation of Trade Unions, and who is a former lawmaker, admitted that Cathay Pacific was not in violation of the law since Hong Kong did not have an age discrimination ordinance.

He said the commission would convey the unions’ desire for legislation against age discrimination to the office of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs.

According to a study conducted by the commission last year, over one-third of respondents said they had experienced age discrimination at work in the past five years.

The study also found that 70 per cent of respondents across all age groups and educational levels agreed that there was a need for legislation against age discrimination.