Cathay union reaches preliminary deal with management

May 29, 2015 12:33
Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim (R) shakes hands with a management representative after reaching a deal over pay and benefits. A Labor Department official is seen standing behind the duo. Photo: SocRec

Cathay Pacific Airways' cabin crew union has reached a preliminary agreement with the carrier's management over issues related to pay and benefits, prompting the union to call off preparations for a summer strike.

The union made the announcement after hectic negotiations Thursday which saw officials from Hong Kong's Labour Department play a mediating role.

Negotiations once nearly collapsed as management insisted on signing a formal agreement on Thursday itself, a proposal which the union rejected, Apple Daily reported.

The union said it needs to undertake legal consultation before it signs a definitive agreement. 

The management later softened its stance and acceded to the union's request. A final agreement could now come on Monday next week. 

The latest developments mark a dramatic turnaround from last week, when hundreds of cabin staff staged a sit-in at the airline’s check-in area at the Hong Kong airport as the management had been refusing to accept their demands.

The union demanded better treatment after the company cut some cabin crew allowances and benefits.

The union also accused management of pay discrepancies for junior staff who were renewing their contracts. Issues related to legal support for workers involved in civil action were also brought up.

After negotiations on Wednesday and Thursday, Cathay's management consented to all demands made by the union, including resuming daily lunch allowance for cabin crew on the Hong Kong-Melbourne route to A$60 (US$45.95) from A$35 and compensating those who had been affected.

The carrier promised that there won't be any surprise cuts in allowances in the future. Meanwhile, it agreed to give a 10 percent raise to those who are switching to long-term contracts after their initial three-year service, helping resolve the issue of pay discrimination for newer recruits.

James Tong, director of corporate affairs at Cathay, denied that the carrier was forced to yield due to union pressure.

Meanwhile, union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim said the result could only be seen as "progress" but not a victory yet.

The union will examine closely the wording of the final agreement that is to be signed, she said.

If the final agreement fails to match expectations, the union could still go ahead with a strike, Lai indicated.

The union will hold a meeting today to inform its members of the results of negotiations.

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