An application to hold a protest over work and pay conditions has been withdrawn by a cabin crew union of Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific. The demonstration was planned for Wednesday, a day before union members are set to begin industrial action after having reached “no consensus” with their employer.

An empty Cathay Pacific counter at Hong Kong’s airport. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, which has 3,000 members, had applied to the police to hold an assembly at Cathay City, the airline’s headquarters, on Wednesday afternoon. A Sunday Facebook post about the rally said its purpose was to “arouse public attention and support so as to seek positive responses from the company.”

Grace Siu, the vice-chairperson of the union confirmed with HKFP on Tuesday afternoon that the proposed assembly will be cancelled.

“The Company does not consent to the proposed assembly taking place on its premises, FAU will not be able to obtain the ‘letter of no objection’ from the police authority,” Siu said.

She added that they had “no choice” but to withdraw their application for police approval, as they want to protect members from involvement in any unauthorised assembly.

The application marked the first attempt to host a public protest after Hong Kong scrapped its Covid-19 group gathering limit last month, almost three years after the measure was put in place in March 2020.

The police told HKFP on Tuesday that they received a notice from a group on January 11 about a public event they planned to host at the airport on Wednesday.

“The police are handling the related notice. The police carry out independent risk assessments for each public event notice received,” they said.

‘Work-to-rule’ action on Thursday

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union warned it would take industrial action at a press conference on December 30. The union said the company had ignored their concerns over long working hours and manpower shortages since 2021.

On Monday night, the union announced on its Facebook page that it would start its “work-to-rule” campaign on Thursday – where members will only do what is stipulated by company policies and rules.

The union said it had requested to meet representatives of the airline on Tuesday, but management said they were only available on Thursday at the earliest.

“All the concerns mentioned are indeed discussed in the last year and there has been no consensus,” the post wrote.

The union attached guidelines to their industrial campaign with the announcement, urging its members to adopt work-to-rule and “fly only when you are 100% fit.”

Cathay’s promises

In response to HKFP’s enquiry, Cathay Pacific said it knew “roster building is not going to be perfected overnight with the many constraints we are still facing as we recover,” but it pledged to do “whatever is feasible” to relieve workloads.

“Many of the rostering issues raised previously have already been resolved for the January roster,” the company said, adding that improvements would continue in coming rosters.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union at a press conference on Dec. 30, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The carrier said it had made several changes to the February roster released on Monday, including making flight distribution less clustered among cabin crew members. In addition, the airway also said it was confident it offered “competitive pay” for all positions.

“Cathay Pacific can assure our customers that our flight services will continue as scheduled and there is no need for concern,” it added.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.