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Hong Kong courts

British Airways hits out at Hong Kong union leader as decade-old pay dispute resurfaces

Carol Ng Man-yee is attempting to claim HK$150,000 for overtime pay and meal allowances, an action first raised in 2007, but airline says she is abusing judicial process

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 11:18pm

British Airways has accused a leader of Hong Kong’s largest cabin crew union of abusing judicial process by reopening a decade-old pay dispute that the company claimed she intended to use a “bargaining chip” to further her own cause.

British Airways PLC made the accusation in a letter submitted to the Labour Tribunal, which agreed last December to hear Carol Ng Man-yee’s claim of HK$150,000 for overtime pay and meal allowances, first filed in 2007, that could pave the way for 40 other similar cases worth HK$6.4 million.

The airline is now seeking to strike out Ng’s claim on grounds of unreasonable delay, or to bring the case to High Court if that fails.

Ng, the general secretary of the BA Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association, said outside court that the delay was the company’s fault, and she only reopened her case after the management turned down a proposed package last summer following three years of settlement negotiations.

The package, she revealed, included a lowered monetary claim attached with conditions such as fixing holiday pay and recognising BA Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association as the airline’s official union in the city, so that it could join pay negotiations in Britain.

Ng said crew members had not seen a pay rise since 1998, despite the city’s 29 per cent inflation over the years.

But the company, she said, had refused to recognise the union as their lawyers said Hong Kong laws do not provide the right to collective bargaining.

“They would rather sacrifice labour relations,” Ng said. “I don’t understand why BA had to make things so complicated. They’re the one causing the unreasonable delay.”

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Ng is the chairwoman of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and an executive committee member of the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation – an umbrella group of British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair cabin crew unions – comprising of 10,000 cabin crew members.

BA had complained in the letter to the tribunal that Ng’s act of commencing the proceedings and consciously deciding to sit on it for almost nine years was akin to an abuse of process of the tribunal.

“She chose to keep the matter in abeyance to use, we would submit, as a bargaining chip to further her own cause as chairperson of the BA Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association … to pull out when it suits her position in other matters,” the letter said. “The delay on the part of the claimant to advance the proceeding had been unreasonably long. We submit that a fair trial would be impossible.”

But company representative, cabin crew manager Jolene Ho Pik-kwan, could not say if that was an exhaustive list of grounds to back their application.

Presiding officer David Chum Yau-fong has therefore granted the company three more weeks to come up with full reasons before the application is heard on May 17.

Ho declined to respond to questions outside court.