The main Cathay Pacific flight attendants union has said it is “totally unacceptable” that cabin crew are being “unreasonably” sacked or put on suspended duties in light of a crackdown by the airline on staffers who support anti-Beijing protests. Exact numbers are hard to come by but the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union said it had been working on an “increasing” number of cases in recent weeks.
It’s known that at least two pilots for the Hong Kong-based airline have been sacked for their involvement in the protest movement – one, who was charged on suspicion of rioting and another for sharing protest slogans with passengers via the public address system on an aircraft. At least one other staffer was dismissed for leaking the travel information of a group of Hong Kong police officers.
Meanwhile, the leader of a Cathay Pacific group flight attendants union which represents flight crew at the Cathay Dragon subsidiary was fired at the end of August. Rebecca Sy wasn’t given a reason for her dismissal but activists say the airline saw messages of support for the protest movement on her public Facebook account and dispatched her at the request of authorities in mainland China.
Beijing has taken a tough stance with Cathay Pacific because it was unhappy that the airline initially allowed its unions and staff to publicly support protests that have gripped Hong Kong for over three months. Cathay Pacific has since clamped down on employee behaviour, repeatedly warning staff who attend illegal protests or support “overly radical” action that they would be sacked.
Some cabin crew now say they live in fear of being reported by colleagues and that teamwork is virtually non-existent.
Last week, the airline suspended a group of flight attendants who were operating flights where emergency oxygen bottles were found either empty or partially depleted. A total of 13 oxygen bottles were affected on two Cathay Pacific planes at Toronto Pearson airport, while more oxygen bottles were found empty on a Cathay Dragon plane in Hong Kong.
The airline says it is investigating and has put the crew on restricted duties until the inquiry, which involves the Hong Kong Police Force and civil aviation department, has been completed.
But Beijing’s English language mouthpiece, the Global Times, has urged Cathay Pacific to take an even tougher stance – arguing the airline should sack so many staff that it would be forced to cut back its schedule for lack of available crew.
“We find it totally unacceptable that our Members’ are being unreasonably dismissed and that their years of contributions are disregarded,” the union said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
“… we are working on the current cases and urging the Company to provide explanations on the management decisions,” the statement continued.
Last month, Cathay Pacific’s chief executive and chief commercial officer resigned with immediate effect for their part in handling the crisis. The airline’s longtime Chairman, John Slosar announced on Wednesday that he too would step down from his role at the company in November.