HONG KONG – The union representing Cathay Pacific pilots has hit back angrily at claims their work-to-rule action has hampered the airline’s growth, saying “gross mismanagement” was instead to blame.
Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA) general secretary Chris Beebe challenged management’s assertion that the work-to-rule was to blame for the postponement of new routes and an increase in flight frequency.
In a letter to union members which demonstrates the depth of bad feeling generated by the year-long pilot action, Beebe accused management of trying to pass on blame for its own “poor choices and strategies”.
The real cause of the poor performance when business should be flourishing, he argued, was “gross mismanagement of costs with respect to fuel hedging and inciting employee discontent”.
Cathay Pacific last night said the letter contained “inaccurate assertions” and insisted it was trying its best to resolve outstanding issues with its pilots.
The union, which represents 2,100 of Cathay’s 2,900 pilots, began a work-to-rule in December 2014 over pay and rosters. While the pay issue has been resolved, the dispute over rosters and other issues is continuing.
The letter from Beebe signed on behalf of the union’s general committee and sent out on Friday – the day after the rebranding of Dragonair was announced – said: “Do not allow the pomp and ceremony of the rebrand of Cathay Pacific to avert your attention from the reality that the current problems will continue at the airline until it makes a sea change in the manner it chooses to work with its employees.”
It said the response from Cathay management to increases in cases of pilot fatigue and safety concerns was “nothing short of bromidic”.
He accused management of cutting pilot numbers on certain flights to London, reducing training and making “callous attempts to question fatigued pilots who are quite rightly reporting unfit for duty”.
Beebe said the company was putting its reputation in jeopardy and said: “The highest levels of [Cathay Pacific and Swire] need to intervene if they desire the impasse broken.”
Responding to the letter, a Cathay Pacific spokesperson said: “We have consistently sought to resolve the ongoing issues with the HKAOA, as the situation is clearly a ‘lose, lose’ for both the airline and our pilots.
“The ongoing industrial campaign places a strain on our resources and our ability to grow in 2016 … We’ve given the union every opportunity through exhaustive talks and offers of compromise, to solve the issues on the table, but they have not always responded positively.
The spokesperson added: “The attitude of the HKAOA executive, highlighted by the tone of their updates and their inaccurate assertions, does not help in overcoming the impasse.
“Even though the industrial campaign continues we have invited HKAOA representatives to provide their input when working to make improvements to our operations and to address concerns including pilot fatigue.
“We will continue to work hard and constructively with them to reach agreements in which both sides have an interest. We’ve told them the door is always open.”