Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways permanently ceases talks with its Flight Attendants Union (FAU) over pay and conditions, calling such practice too archaic for the modern world.
After large layoffs, changes in staff contracts and permanent cuts in pay, Cathay Pacific unilaterally decided to cancel year-end negotiations with cabin crew union, saying that the airline’s management will contact employees directly via digital communication platforms. The airlines said that outdated practice of negotiating terms and conditions via unions belongs back to the 1970s.
“The time has come to move on from outdated practices [of union-led labour negotiations] that were designed back in the 1970s, which are simply not right or relevant for the modern world,” Jeanette Mao, the airline’s general manager of in-flight service, South China Morning Post reported.
General Manager of in-flight service, Jeanette Mao also blamed the union for working with outside groups.
“I’m afraid recently we have seen the FAU be influenced by input from outside parties who are not Cathay employees, and who do not appear to have the company’s best interest at heart,” Mao said.
In response, Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union, which represents more than 80% of Cathay Pacific cabin crew, said that ceasing annual negotiations that have been carried out for 10 years, would stifle employees’ collective bargaining rights. FAU called it the “greatest setback” in a decade.
“The consequences of permanently cancelling the year-end negotiation is that we no longer have a scheduled, regular negotiation opportunity with the company,” Amber Suen, vice-chairwoman of Flight Attendants Union.
Amber Suen also contradicted Mao’s description of labour union practices as outdated, saying “the format of negotiation is never outdated or old fashioned, it is a way for both parties to come together to work together for harmonious labour relations, it is never confrontational, it has proved useful.“
The annual negotiations generally allowed the Flight Attendants Union to discuss cabin crew pay rise, bonuses and more concessions.
The chairperson of FAU, Zuki Wong believes that direct communication with cabin crew members would be harmful for constructive negotiations, as the airline’s suggested way of communication would disclose their identity.
Zuki Wong said that “it is often that our staff do not hope to reveal their identity… therefore wanting the union to represent their voice, they are afraid of consequences [after raising their suggestions with their name revealed].” RTHK reported.
The chairwoman also added that the Hong Kong government cannot ignore the situation after its bailout to crippled Cathay Pacific earlier this year. Therefore, she addressed the government to come up with legislation which would protect all labour unions across Hong Kong.