Cathay Dragon cabin crew give union power to call strike if necessary
- The two sides have been at loggerheads since September over roster issues and decline in morale
- Airline says there is ‘common understanding’, but union says no solutions have been offered
Cathay Dragon flight attendants voted on Tuesday evening to give their union the power to take industrial action if necessary, amid conflict with managers over duty rosters and other issues.
The Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association (FAA) is unlikely to use disruptive action such as a strike, but union head Rebecca Sy On-na said it was considering a mass protest at Hong Kong International Airport to “let the public know how bad the management is”.
Sy said the action to be taken by the union would depend on how the airline responds to the issues raised.
Of 358 votes, including proxy votes, 338 were in favour, with one against. There were 19 abstentions.
The airline said it met the union on Tuesday morning. But the FAA said it was not official, and no minutes were taken.
“A common understanding has been reached,” a Cathay Dragon spokeswoman said. “As always, we are committed to listening to the views of all our people.”
However, the coming together was not enough to stop the union meeting. Sy said the “common understanding” was that the airline acknowledged the issue, but offered no solutions.
Cathay Dragon has about 1,880 cabin crew, mostly based in Hong Kong, and more than 1,000 of them are union members. It has 47 aircraft and flies to 48 destinations in Asia.
The airline is part of the loss-making Cathay Pacific group, which is in the midst of a major restructuring aimed at saving HK$4 billion (US$510.2 million).
Hong Kong-based flight attendants have been upset over roster changes that have left them losing up to HK$1,000 a month in allowances, as cheaper mainland Chinese cabin crew have been given more work.
“This is a cost-cutting issue. You can’t just do cost-cutting, you have to look after the Hong Kong crew and their benefits and morale,” Sy said.
The union said mainland Chinese crew had been rostered for more overnight trips on some routes, at the expense of their Hong Kong-based colleagues.
Overall, Hong Kong crew still get most of the overnight flights.
The management told the union by email that duty rosters were based on productivity.
Flight attendants were also upset about the way they were treated when the airline rushed to get its schedule back to normal after 24 hours of massive disruption caused by Typhoon Mangkhut in September.
Staff were told to report to work at Hong Kong International Airport using the Airport Express train, by taking a taxi to the nearest station. The union said the company’s communication was unclear, and led to staff being told they would have to pay for their transport to work.
In an email to staff, Cathay Dragon CEO Algernon Yau Ying-wah blamed a possible “miscommunication which has caused the confusion”.