More Trouble For Cathay Pacific As Dragon Flight Attendants Vote For Strike Over Continuing Mainland China Flights

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Cathay Pacific has had a rough few months or even year but the next trouble is already brewing as Cathay Dragon flight attendants voted overwhelmingly to go on strike after the company decided to continue their mainland China flights.

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Employees are concerned over health and safety while working flights to/from mainland China, possibly exposing themselves to customers infected with the nCov-2019 Coronavirus.

Many international carriers have already stopped flights to Mainland China entirely until further notice but so far Cathay Pacific has held onto their connections, most of which are operated by Cathay Dragon which they use for regional flights.

Now South China Morning Post reports that the flight attendants are starting to rebel against it.

Cathay Dragon’s flight attendants voted overwhelmingly for future industrial action, but dropped their threat of an immediate strike, the union revealed on Saturday afternoon.

Cabin crew delivered an emphatic message to the airline to temporarily scrap all mainland China flights when 90 per cent of union members supported downing tools over the company’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. …

The Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association (FAA) said it had obtained permission to hold a rally in Tung Chung for members on Sunday afternoon, where they would consult on their next steps.

Members voted 420 to 22 in favour of industrial action, with 25 abstentions. Cathay Dragon has approximately 2,000 cabin crew.

A last-ditch appeal from Cathay Pacific boss Augustus Tang Kin-wing for flight attendants at the carrier’s sister airline not to take “disruptive” action was dismissed by union chiefs as only encouraging a potential strike. …

In a memo to all staff on Friday night, Tang said there was no legitimate basis for a strike, as the airline had taken every precaution to limit the risks involved with flying to mainland China.

With virus fears in Hong Kong growing daily, the threat of a mass strike and flight disruption is high, despite threats from the company it will discipline and even fire anyone who refuses to show up for work. …

On Thursday, Cathay Dragon CEO Algernon Yau Wing-wah was blunt about the consequences for the approximate 2,000 flight attendants, though not all are unionised.

“If you fail to report for duty in accordance with your roster, this will be treated as missed duty and unauthorised absence, and the company reserves the right to take action against you according to your conditions of service and the Employment Ordinance,” Yau said.

Cathay is really in a bind here. The airline is financially wounded by both the dwindling demand due to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and now the Coronavirus scare that goes in it’s second month.

If the carrier now agrees to halt mainland China flights their operations are pretty much decimated.

They already published a comprehensive travel waiver allowing passengers to voluntarily cancel their flights if they wish in turn for a full refund. The worldwide schedule has also been thinned out to reflect current passenger demand and not burn even more money than necessary, flying half empty.

Conclusion

This isn’t an easy situation for Cathay Pacific and their staff either. I can very well understand that the staff doesn’t want to be exposed to the disease and Cathay hasn’t shown much flexibility in the past. It took them forever to finally agree to the staff being allowed to wear protective masks inflight. There seems to be very little flexibility on the part of the airline and as far as that employment culture is concerned I’m not surprised that there is little goodwill on the part of the cabin crew either.

Time will tell if Cathay Pacific is able to survive these impacts in the long run. I suspects the airline will eventually be forced to shut down Mainland China routes due to lack of cabin crew available to operate the flights.

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