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Cathay, Union to Attend Labor Meeting to Resolve Dispute

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Cathay Says Invited to Meet Hong Kong Labor Officials, Union
The Flight Attendants Union had asked for a 5 percent pay increase, while Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. offered about 2 percent. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and its Flight Attendants Union will attend a meeting called by the Hong Kong Labor Department tomorrow as authorities step in to resolve a wage dispute.

The union, representing more than 5,800 of 9,000 flight attendants, may go ahead with its planned industrial action if negotiations don’t produce “significant progress” by Dec. 19, it said in an e-mailed statement today. Cathay said in a Dec. 15 statement it received an invitation to meet representatives of the government and the employees.

Members of the union last week authorized its leaders to initiate industrial action after a disagreement over a proposed pay rise for next year. The labor group had asked for a 5 percent pay increase, while Cathay offered about 2 percent. The airline has said in an open letter that employees have seen salaries go up about 12 percent in the past three years, with an extra month of annual bonus.

Flight attendants may work to rule or refuse to do tasks such as serving food in the days leading to Christmas, said Dora Lai, the union’s chairwoman. Workers may go on strike over the New Year or the February Lunar New Year holiday if Cathay fails to respond to requests for further pay talks, she said.

‘Travel Plans’

“We appreciate the Labor Department’s experience in resolving issues such as this,” said Liza Ng, general manager of cabin crew, in a statement. “We know many Hong Kong people have travel plans over the peak year-end season and it is certainly our priority to ensure that our customers are not inconvenienced in any way.”

Cathay rose 0.9 percent to HK$13.98 at close of trading in Hong Kong today while the Hang Seng Index dropped 0.41 percent. The carrier’s stock has advanced 5 percent this year, compared with 22 percent for the benchmark.

The last time Cathay flight attendants went on strike was during the Lunar New Year holiday in 1993, when about 1,000 cabin crew walked out for 17 days, the longest in the union’s history, said Tsang Kwok-fung, a spokesman for the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union. Since then, there have been smaller actions such as working to rule, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleni Himaras in Hong Kong at ehimaras@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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