Cathay Pacific Faces Crew Strike Over ‘Inhumane’ Working Conditions

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Cathay Pacific may face a cabin crew strike soon after all the members of the largest cabin crew trade union have voted unanimously in favor of industrial action over allegedly “inhumane” working conditions, Financial Times (FT) reported.

Over 3,000 Cathay Pacific Flights Attendants Union (FAU) members approved the upcoming strike at its recent general meeting. The FAU is yet to announce the exact dates, but according to FT it will take place over the Christmas and new year holidays.

News Cathay Pacific Faces Crew Strike Over 'Inhumane' Working Conditions
Cathay Pacific Faces Crew Strike Over ‘Inhumane’ Working Conditions

Pilots and cabin crew expressed dissatisfaction with the “stressful” working conditions after the company laid off thousands of staff two years ago due to the pandemic. Furthermore, many crew members resigned over pay cuts, strict coronavirus measures, and quarantine rules.

The trade union has urged its members to “work to rule,” meaning to keep strictly to contract terms due to what it called “inhumane” flying schedules and excessive workloads. However, Cathay Pacific told FT that flight services would not be disrupted, reassuring passengers that there are no grounds for concerns. The airline did not comment on potential negotiations with the union members.

In a recent letter to Cathay CEO Augustus Tang, the union emphasized the “perpetual manpower cuts, additional workload and pay cuts” for the flight attendants and pilots. The trade union also pointed to the increased number of fatigue reports and multiple complaints from personnel about the roster and “inhumane flight patterns” with minimal rest time.

Before the pandemic, Cathay had nearly 10,000 cabin crew personnel, the union noted. As of September, some 5,600 people remained with the airline following the pay cuts and layoffs. The airline lost nearly a quarter of its pilots between December 2019 and Q3 this year, with the total reaching about 2,400 people.

Pilots complained about the “perpetual quarantine” rules and “severe” pay cuts of nearly 60% of their usual remuneration which affected their motivation, the trade union noted.

During the pandemic, Cathay Pacific’s crew was subject to some of the strictest quarantine rules. Nex to the 21 days of isolation at a dedicated quarantine hotel on arrival in Hong Kong until October last year, pilots and flight attendants were allowed to leave their hotel room while abroad.

Due to its reduced flying rooster, layovers after long-haul flights have also been shortened, which led to numerous complaints of exhaustion by the crew members.

However, the airline scrapped the hotel quarantine in September and eased the restrictions on inbound travelers last week. They can now attend bars and restaurants during the first three days of arrival.

Ronald Lam, Cathay’s chief customer, and commercial officer, who will succeed CEO Tang in January, said last month that the airline would lead the revival of Hong Kong’s international aviation hub status.

Hong Kong’s economy was seriously affected by the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. As a result, the government expects a 3.2% contraction in annual GDP after it shrank 4.5% in Q3.

Although the restrictions have been scrapped and the flying levels are gradually picking up, Cathay operated at 20% of its pre-pandemic levels in November. The airline aims to reach 70% of its pre-Covid 19 levels by the end of 2023 and return to full capacity by 2024, it said.

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