Cathay Pacific Warns Striking Staff Could Be Dismissed

Cathay Pacific has issued a warning to its staff regarding the general strike planned for the 2nd to the 3rd of September. In a staff memo, the airline’s Director of People warns that any employee participating in the strike could be found in breach of their employment contract.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A350
The situation in Hong Kong shows no sign of improvement. Photo: Cathay Pacific

Loyalty Lobby reported yesterday about a Cathay Pacific staff memo which surfaced on Twitter on Thursday.

The memo from Cathay Pacific’s Director of People, Tom Owen, voices the airline’s disapproval of the strike and goes on to reiterate the company has a zero-tolerance policy toward the illegal activities.

It also outlines the company’s stance towards any staff found to be participating in the strikes, saying:

“We expect all of our employees to report for work as normal over this period and will be monitoring attendance levels closely. Any breach of policy or regulatory requirements will be investigated and may lead to termination of employment.”

Cathay Pacific has already fired four staff as a result of their participation in the protests. The airline also lost its CEO, Rupert Hogg, earlier in the month as he resigned as a result of the disruption.

A changing tune

Cathay Pacific’s tough stance towards the protests may be understandable, as it has had to cancel hundreds of flights since they began.

The airline has also been forced to hand over identification details of any staff thought to be participating in the Hong Kong protests to the Chinese authorities. Any such individuals are now banned from landing in mainland China, yet another headache for Cathay Pacific.

A Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900
Cathay Pacific has experienced significant disruption as a result of the protests. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

But Cathay Pacific wasn’t always so opposed to the protests. In fact, just earlier this month Cathay’s chairman John Slosar told reporters that the airline supports its workers’ rights to free thought.

“We have virtually every opinion on every issue amongst our staff… We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.”, Slosar said.

After the Chinese government applied increasing pressure to Cathay Pacific, the airline’s tune soon changed.

Staff are reportedly now worried about being monitored on social media and being informed upon by fellow colleagues.

What next for Cathay Pacific and its staff?

It seems Cathay Pacific is deeply invested in the outcome of the Hong Kong protests in a number of ways. From a business perspective, further shutdowns, protests and disruptions will have a severe impact on the company’s financial returns.

A Cathay Pacific A330
Cathay Pacific has 27,000 employees in Hong Kong. Photo: Cathay Pacific

At the same time, the airline’s relationship with the Chinese government needs to be kept as sweet as possible. China’s hold over Hong Kong looks to be growing stronger by the day, so Cathay Pacific will need to play by Beijing’s rules if it wants to maximize its chances of success going forward.

However, tough measures against staff, whether they are protestors or not, is not a good look for an airline trying to portray itself as a premium brand in the global aviation industry.

It seems Cathay Pacific is somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing with China, its customers and its employees. In a media statement released on Thursday, Cathay Pacific said,

“The Cathay Pacific Group is committed to making ethical decisions on issues that affect our employees, customers, partners, community and the general public.”

How the airline will prioritize each of these groups remains to be seen.