Cathay Pacific pilots push for seat at table for restructuring talks

By Jamie Freed

SYDNEY: Pilots at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd are pushing to be included in restructuring talks at the carrier and will run a newspaper advertisement to drum up public support, a union representing them told Reuters on Tuesday.

The comments come after the group this month declined to apply for more government employment subsidies for its main business units, freeing it from the condition to retain jobs tied to the grants and fuelling worries of layoffs.

“What we want is to make sure if there is some sort of decision with regards to the future of the pilots, that we will be involved in discussions on what the structure looks like,” said Chris Beebe, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA).

Beebe declined to comment on whether pilots would offer concessions like temporary salary cuts or unpaid leave schemes as have been agreed at other airlines amid crumbling demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Cathay pilots had already participated in a company-wide voluntary unpaid leave scheme, he said.

The union will run an advertisement in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday in its push for a seat at the table for talks on the restructuring plan that is due to be announced in the fourth quarter, Beebe said.

The advertisement will highlight HKAOA-commissioned research in which most respondents said they thought the union’s 2,200 members were important to the city’s global reputation.

Cathay did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The carrier, which received a $5 billion government rescue package, has refrained from large-scale job cuts but has warned it is reviewing all aspects of its business model.

HKAOA represents pilots at the main brand, Cathay Pacific. Pilots at regional brand Cathay Dragon and low-cost carrier HK Express are represented by other unions.

Several employees have told Reuters on condition of anonymity that they are bracing for major job losses.

Rival Singapore Airlines Ltd has already announced plans to cut around 20% of positions, while Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd has said it will cut nearly 30% of its pre-pandemic staff.

Source: Reuters, Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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