SCMP Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Cathay crew and management trade accusations of bad faith
Cathay Pacific pilots yesterday accused the company of "moving the goal posts" and failing to negotiate in good faith in their last-ditch talks on pay and conditions.
The airline's management hit back, saying it was the pilots' union that was not entering discussions in the right spirit.
Industrial action is due to begin on Sunday if a deal is not struck.
Flight disruptions are expected almost immediately.
The Aircrew Officers' Association, which represents most of the company's 1,500 pilots, said that by setting a 72-hour deadline the airline had reduced the odds of averting flight disruptions.
"It's regrettable that the company has moved the goal posts in these negotiations," union general secretary John Findlay said as talks were about to begin yesterday.
"We had an agreed timetable for meetings with the Labour Department and we have adhered to that agreement. The director of flight operations has now cut short those negotiations by two days, for reasons we're not quite sure of.
"That's not the sign of anybody who's keen to reach a settlement. That strikes me as someone who wants a conflict."
Cathay on Monday said it would pull out of talks at midnight tomorrow if an agreement had not been struck.
It said the union's intention to give members a detailed plan on Friday of how flights would be disrupted meant negotiating after that time would be pointless.
In an open letter to the union, Cathay said it would also need to spend the last few days making contingency plans ahead of the industrial action.
Asked whether it was still possible to reach an agreement with two fewer days to do it, Mr Findlay said: "Anything's possible. But we have to bear in mind that we've been talking about rostering practices for the past four years. It's just a waste not to have those two days in hand if we need them. If a settlement was very close but not quite there, those two days could have been very useful."
Cathay hit back at the accusations and said the union had failed to negotiate in good faith since talks began on Monday last week.
Spokeswoman Lisa Wong Lai-shan said the pilots were in a position to ensure talks continued on Friday and Saturday by changing their plans for Friday.
"It was June 20 when the union had its meeting" to vote for industrial action should settlement not be reached by negotiation, she said.
"On that same day, they had already distributed a letter saying their plans for industrial action would be sent on the 29th. I would ask who is not negotiating in good faith."
Corporate development director Tony Tyler said: "If they want to keep talking, all they've got to do is not send out their disruption plans."
A spokeswoman for the Labour Department, which is conciliating in the dispute, said it was willing to continue discussions until there was a solution.
About 1,000 Cathay flights were cancelled in the summer of 1999 when pilots phoned in sick en masse, saying they were too stressed to fly safely because of a dispute over salaries.
Talks ran all day yesterday and are to resume this morning.