Date
23 May 2017
Members of the Hong Kong cabin crew union of Virgin Atlantic accuse management of refusing to talk to them on mass layoff plans. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook
Members of the Hong Kong cabin crew union of Virgin Atlantic accuse management of refusing to talk to them on mass layoff plans. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew to strike over layoffs

A Hong Kong-based union of Virgin Atlantic decided to go on strike, accusing management of refusing to talk to them after laying off 50 senior crew members to save costs.

The wildcat strike, which was set to start on Monday and is expected to continue until New Year’s Day, may affect airline passengers flying between London and Hong Kong, Apple Daily reported.

Yeung Sheung-heng, chairman of Virgin Atlantic’s local cabin crew union, said management broke its promise not to push through with large-scale layoffs after cutting more than half of the Hong Kong staff earlier last year.

Last month the carrier told half of its flight attendants in the city their contracts will be terminated by March next year, Yeung said.

The affected cabin crew members are of senior rank, having been working for the airline for eight to 22 years.

The decision will cut the number of cabin crew members in Hong Kong to 33 from 84.

The union said it had requested for a meeting with management at least eight times, but the airline refused, saying only that talks via phone could be arranged after senior officials return from their Christmas holidays.

The union’s action is considered a wildcat strike as it can take place anytime without warning.

Meanwhile, cabin crew members also plan to stage a silent protest rally at the airline counters on Monday night.

The union apologized to the airline’s clients for any inconvenience to be caused by their action, but said they are left with no other option.

Virgin Atlantic has also implemented cost-control measures in the UK, but it promised no layoffs and provided staff with seven options, including pay freeze and transfer to part-time jobs.

On the other hand, Hong Kong staff were fired without providing them any alternatives, the union said.

It was also reported that some cabin crew members received less compensation after the company used an offsetting mechanism involving their Mandatory Provident Fund contributions.

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BT/AC/CG

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