Cathay Pacific may face a flight attendants’ strike unless management boosts meal allowances for crew flying to Melbourne and helps covers the legal costs of crewmembers assaulted by rampaging passengers.The airline’s Flight Attendants’ Union is threatening a “massive sit-in” unless meal payments are restored and employment contracts changed to give cabin crew better legal protection from assault.
Flight Attendants’ Union honorary secretary Michelle Choi Yan-ling told a conference earlier this week that the time had come for action rather than words, the Hong Kong Standard reported.
The union is disturbed by what it says is the quiet removal from the airline’s operations manual of a legal protection clause covering circumstances involving unruly passengers.
“If a cabin crew member is assaulted by a passenger, the company will help call the police but tell him/her to find a lawyer and pay for the legal costs,” Choi told the paper.
“This is entirely unreasonable.”
A Cathay spokeswoman said the airline was examining the manual’s rewording. The airline’s commitment to its staff involved in such incidents while on duty had not changed, she stated.
The other peeve by workers concerns money for lunches. When Cathay Pacific made a profit last year it promised an average salary increase of 4.5% for 90% of its Hong Kong staff.
All was not what it seemed, however, according to the union. Since February the company cut back meal allowances by an average of 18% for cabin crew posted to Melbourne. Now, the union hears that the lunch-payment cutbacks are being extended to the airline’s Nagoya and Paris routes.
The union says that instead of adhering to a 1986 agreement to offer meal allowances covering hotel coffee shop menus, the company has started offering allowances that cover only lounge menus, where the food offered is much less filling.
Over a recent three-month period, the union estimates the company has saved more than HKD 1.1 million (AUD 177,520) in meal allowances, based on prices at the Sofi’s Lounge menu at Sofitel Melbourne.
The union also objects to the introduction of new, lower rates per flying hour for crew switching to long-term contracts.
Written by Peter Needham