In a move that could form a blueprint for other airlines, Cathay Pacific will no longer negotiate with the union representing its flight attendants over pay and benefits. Instead, it will go directly to flight attendants.
Cathay Pacific Will No Longer Recognize Flight Attendant Union
Cathay Pacific calls negotiating with the Flight Attendants Union (FAU) an “outdated practice” that is more suited for the 1970s than 2020. Going forward, Cathay Pacific will negotiate directly with staff via digital platforms and refuse to even recognize the “old fashioned confrontational legacy practices.”
Jeanette Mao, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager of In-Flight Service noted:
“The time has come to move on from outdated practices that were designed back in the 1970s, which are simply not right or relevant for the modern world…
“I’m afraid recently we have seen the FAU be influenced by input from outside parties who are not Cathay employees, and who do not appear to have the company’s best interest at heart.”
The communication was via video to employees and reviewed by Danny Lee of the South China Morning Post.
Why now? A “year-end negotiation” traditionally takes place around this time, in which unions attempt to secure pay raises, bonus, and more favorable working conditions. Cathay Pacific has made clear, in part due to its losses stemming from the pandemic, that it would not be entertaining any bonus conversations this year.
An FAU representative called the matter a very bad precedent not just for Cathay Pacific, for “all enterprises.”
“The format of negotiation is never outdated or old fashioned. It is a way for both parties to come together to work together for harmonious labour relations, it is never confrontational, it has proved useful.
“What Cathay Pacific is doing is setting very bad precedence for all enterprises by removing our collective bargaining power.”
But a Cathay Pacific spokesperson noted:
“We are fully committed to listening to our crew community – we respect them and their views enormously. We will be adopting new ways of hearing feedback and suggestions from our crew members direct and in real time, at any time throughout the year.”
Hong Kong does not have a law which guarantees collective bargaining agreements.
The move is bold, but not surprising. Cathay Pacific engaged in similar action in October with the union representing its pilots. Staff will still have a process through which to report grievances and seek concessions, but a new forum of direct engagement may intimidate staff to actually speak up.
image: Cathay Pacific