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Fri Dec 19 18:30:35 SAST 2014

Cathay Pacific crews threaten to stop smiling, serving booze

Sapa-AFP | 11 December, 2012 09:22
Lined up banners are seen at a city check-in counter of Cathay Pacific Airways in downtown Hong Kong.
Image by: BOBBY YIP / REUTERS

Cathay Pacific flight crews may stop serving alcohol and smiling at passengers after voting in favour of industrial action during the Christmas holidays over a salary dispute, their union said.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, which is demanding a five percent salary increase from Hong Kong's flagship carrier, said the "work-to-rule" measures could also throw flight schedules into chaos.

"We will be selective in providing our services," union general secretary Tsang Kwok-fung told AFP, adding that the form and date of the action approved in Monday's vote is yet to be decided.

"This could include not smiling at passengers, not providing certain types of beverages -- such as alcohol -- or stop serving meals," he said.

"In a nutshell it means passengers will still be able to reach their destinations except they are paying a five-star price to get a three-star service," Tsang said.

Work-to-rule is a form of industrial action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract, sometimes adhering to safety or other regulations precisely in order to cause a slowdown.

"We will follow the rules strictly, such as offloading oversize luggage, that could cause a slowdown or even delay of flights," Tsang said.

The protest was sparked by Cathay's announcement last month that it was giving a two percent pay rise to its employees in 2013, on top of a discretionary one-month bonus for 2012, falling short of the union's demand.

The 6,000-strong union at a special meeting on Monday told the carrier to resume negotiations or face the Christmas action and a possible full strike during the New Year holiday.

Cathay has insisted the union withdraw the threat to strike before re-opening talks, and asked its staff to be "considerate and understand the difficult situation" the airline is facing.

The carrier has been trying to trim costs after it fell into the red in the first half of this year with a HK$935 million ($121 million) loss, partly due to high fuel prices.

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