Date
21 October 2018
BA has shown disrespect toward its HK-based cabin crew by sacking them in an abrupt manner, says Carol Ng (inset, center), general secretary of the British Airways Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ
BA has shown disrespect toward its HK-based cabin crew by sacking them in an abrupt manner, says Carol Ng (inset, center), general secretary of the British Airways Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ

BA sacks HK crew in abrupt move ahead of closure of local base

British Airways (BA) has laid off all of its Hong Kong-based cabin crew in a sudden move that caused dismay and anger among the more than seven dozen affected staff members and could potentially spark a legal battle.

The London-headquartered carrier made the announcement Wednesday, saying flight attendants were being let go as the company had decided to close the Hong Kong cabin crew base.

The Hong Kong base is being shut as a review led to the conclusion that the arrangement is commercially unviable, BA said.

As the airline prepares for closure of the crew base next month, the services of flight attendants who are stationed in the city are being terminated with immediate effect, it said.

The announcement, which came with little or no advance warning, sent the Hong Kong flight attendants reeling with shock as they are suddenly left without a job, facing an uncertain future.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to the affected crew, whose number totaled 85, BA promised one month’s wage in lieu of notice as required by Hong Kong’s employment ordinance.

Responding to the news, Carol Ng Man-yee, general secretary of the British Airways Hong Kong International Cabin Crew Association, slammed the UK carrier and accused it being inhumane and irresponsible toward the staff, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The company has shown no respect for its Hong Kong-based workers, Ng said.

In the letter sent to the crew, BA gave the laid-off workers four days starting Wednesday to have one-on-one meetings with the management, who will explain the arrangement of ex-gratia allowance they may receive.

It is believed that of the 85 flight attendants who were made redundant, 61 had worked for BA for between 18 and 32 years under continuous employment contracts, while the rest were employed on a contract basis with renewal needed every year.

A spokesman for the airline said the decision to sack Hong Kong crew was made following a detailed and thorough review of BA’s global operation.

According to the spokesman, the company concluded that the continued operation of its Hong Kong base is no longer viable.

The airline will close its Hong Kong crew base at the end of October, but the carrier will continue to operate its existing schedule on the London-Hong Kong route.

BA currently operates two direct flights a day between Hong Kong and London’s Heathrow airport.

According to the BA Hong Kong cabin crew union, when the carrier closed its outstation crew bases elsewhere, it gave as much as six months’ notice to the staff, but this was not done in the case of Hong Kong.

Ng said the union had recently heard rumors of cost-cutting by the company and that the union had constantly contacted the management for confirmation, only to be told every time that it was not the case, RTHK reports.

“However, today it is the case,” Ng said.

BA has been conducting a series of reorganizations since 2016 in a bid to cut costs and streamline operations.

As of the end of 2017, it had laid off 717 people, 361 of whom were based outside the United Kingdom, reducing the total number of its worldwide employees to about 36,800.

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TL/JC/RC

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