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Many employees who escaped being terminated by Cathay during last week’s axing of more than 5300 Hong Kong staff now face the unenviable choice of either signing new contracts for significantly lower remuneration or risk being dismissed.

This follows an extraordinary general meeting held on Monday (26 Oct) by the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union at the Novotel Citygate Hong Kong Hotel. Around 360 members were in attendance to pledge their support for the union’s action.

The first deadline of the new contract expires today (28 Oct), with a one-off transitional sweetener for those who signed – but not for those who sign before the final deadline next Wednesday. Employees who do not accept the new contract will have their employment with Cathay terminated and lose all associated benefits.

Also read: All you need to know about Cathay Pacific’s layoff announcement

It’s understood that the union has already had a meeting with Cathay management, demanding that the deadline for signing the new contract is extended.

“Members said the new contract has changed a lot and they need more time to read the clauses thoroughly,” union chairwoman Zuki Wong Sze-man told The Standard, adding that some members already regret signing the new contract.

Wong said the basic wages of some flight attendants have been reduced by as much as 30 to 40% under the new terms, adding that there are clauses that would negatively impact the union’s bargaining power. The new contract apparently also includes a clause enabling the airline to offset an employee’s MPF.

Wong added that the new contract also states that the airline has the right to alter the terms in future, meaning that “basic salaries can be further reduced”.

Human Resources also understands that a significant number of Cathay pilots have also had their salaries significantly cut under the new contracts.

Association chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, Tad Hazelton, wrote a letter to Commissioner for Labour Carlson Chan Ka-shun seeking an urgent meeting with the Labour Department, pointing out that an employer should consult and secure consent from its employees prior to varying the terms of employment contracts.

“No such consultation has occurred between the association and the management of Cathay Pacific,” he said.

"This lack of consultation, an unfair draconian decision period and a question as to whether consent can legitimately be given under these circumstances are of great concern. We wish to discuss the actions to be taken in order to preserve the statutory rights and uphold the moral obligations of Cathay Pacific to its pilots,” Hazelton added.