SCMP Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Cathay pilots begin work-to-rule action
ELLEN CHAN, FLORENCE NG and REUTERS
Last updated at 5.58pm:
Cathay Pacific pilots on Tuesday began their ''limited industrial action'' by working to rule after negotiations to solve their pay and conditions dispute with the company broke down.
John Findlay, general secretary of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association which represents a vast majority of the 1,500 Cathay pilots, said that pilots will report to work one hour and twenty minutes before departure time, as stated in the company's operating manual.
''One hour, twenty... quite simply isn't enough [to prepare for the flight],'' Mr Findlay said.
However, the action did not appear to be affecting service.
''Until now, there have been minor flight delays. But they have been caused by weather and technical problems,'' said Cathay Pacific spokeswoman Ng Lai-ting.
She said that an hour and twenty minutes was quite sufficient to complete all the boarding procedures safely.
''I believe the pilots are professional enough to ensure passengers' safety,'' she said.
Cathay corporate development director Tony Tyler accused the leadership of the AOA of not showing any real interest in solving solve the dispute.
Speaking at an afternoon press conference, Mr Tyler asked: ''How much disruption and inconvenience are they willing toimpose on the public? ''Why did the AOA leadership reject it [the company's offer] without allowing its members to vote on it. In fact, why didn't the AOA schedule a meeting in advance of the deadline to consider any offer. Was the AOA leadership ever really interested in reaching an agreement?''
Traveller Jim Testa, who was flying with his family to New Jersey, said he had called Cathay's hotline to ensure no delay with his fight before he came to the airport.
''The industrial action doesn't matter, it has not affected me,'' he said.
ExCo convenor Leung Chun-ying urged pilots to ensure their industrial action did not affect public interests.
In a 1999 dispute, pilots' ''sick-outs'' forced Cathay to cancel flights and charter a fleet of costly planes. Cathay said that dispute cost about $500 million.
Cathay rescinded their offer of a 10.5 per cent pay rise and improved overtime and roster conditions after the pilots' union failed to accept it by a midnight deadline on Saturday.
Management said it would not return to the negotiating table while the threat of industrial action remained, but the union accused Cathay of holding back information on working hours during talks. Pilots say they need this data to better evaluate their terms of pay.
Several regional airlines, including some of Cathay's biggest rivals, said it had contacted them in recent days asking for assistance in event of possible flight disruptions at the start of the busy summer vacation season.
Taiwan's China Airlines, which competes with Cathay on the lucrative Taiwan to Hong Kong routes, and Singapore Airlines said they had received such requests.
''It is true that Cathay has made enquiries on the possibility of SIA wet leasing [of] our planes, and it all depends on availability of equipment and crew,'' a Singapore Airlines spokesman said on Monday.
Japan Airlines said on Monday it was planning extra flights ahead of the possible Cathay industrial action, but would not confirm if Cathay had put forward an actual request for support.