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Cathay Pacific open to employee ideas as it works on restructuring plan

Jamie Freed
·2-min read
Cathay Pacific Airways planes are seen at the Hong Kong International Airport
Cathay Pacific Airways planes are seen at the Hong Kong International Airport

By Jamie Freed

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd <0293.HK> said on Wednesday it welcomed all employee ideas to get it through the pandemic after pilots pushing to be included in restructuring talks ran a newspaper advertisement to drum up public support.

The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA) is facing a loss of relevance as its key agreements with Cathay expire next month, meaning the airline would no longer recognise the union's representation.

HKAOA General Secretary Chris Beebe told Reuters the union had been served with termination notices in July that took effect in three months, confirming an earlier report in the South China Morning Post. Cathay declined to comment.

The airline 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.

HKAOA ran an advertisement in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday in its push for a seat at the table for talks on restructuring. A plan is due to be announced in the fourth quarter.

"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," Beebe said on Tuesday.

He declined to comment on whether pilots would offer concessions like temporary salary cuts or unpaid leave as have been agreed at other airlines amid crumbling demand.

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

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.

Cathay said on Wednesday it had been talking with different employee groups and had met with the HKAOA at least four times since July.

"We appreciate all ideas presented to us for consideration in our planning, and our door remains open," the airline said in a statement.

Beebe said the recent talks had centred on an already announced voluntary early retirement programme for pilots, not the ongoing review.

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 announced plans to cut about 20% of positions, while Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd has said it will cut nearly 30% of its pre-pandemic staff.

(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Gerry Doyle)