Cathay Pacific threatens to fire employees participating in strike next week

Airline also encourages employees to report on their co-workers

Assembly protesting against Cathay Pacific on Aug. 28

Assembly protesting against Cathay Pacific on Aug. 28 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Cathay Pacific has warned its employees not to participate in the general strike planned in Hong Kong next week and encouraged them to report co-workers' perceived misconduct, the Stand News reports.

Tom Owen, Cathay Pacific's director of people, sent an email on Thursday (Aug. 29) explicitly prohibiting all employees to participate in the upcoming strike on Sept. 1 and 2. He added that the company will “closely monitor” company attendance levels and that participation in the strike during working hours will be considered a “breach of employment contract,” which could lead to termination of employment.

Email to Cathay Pacific employees on Aug. 29 (Facebook photo)

In another email, Owen on Wednesday (Aug. 28) drew attention to the revision in the code of conduct. The company also encouraged its employees to “speak up” if they suspect others of breaching the code.

Email to Cathay Pacific employees on Aug. 28 (Facebook photo)

In both of the emails, Owen emphasized that the company takes a “zero tolerance” approach to support of any illegal protests. He stated that such activities will impact the company’s ability “to meet any applicable legal and regulatory requirements.”

The chairperson of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Carol Ng (吳敏兒), said that Cathay Pacific is depriving its employees of their right to strike, which is granted by the Basic Law. She pointed out that the general strike is not just a political strike but also a protest against the recent unjustifiable sackings or forced resignation of more than 20 staff members, including pilots, flight attendants, ground staffers, and administrative workers.

Ng added that threatening employees is not helping Cathay's deteriorating corporate image and labor relations. One employee anonymously told the news agency that, under the new high-pressure management, most in the company have chosen to remain silent regardless of their stance on the protests.

The employee noted that the definition of “supporting” illegal protests is broad and vague, causing workers to worry that simply sharing news reports or even clicking "like" may constitute a breach of code. On Aug. 21, the president of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, Rebecca Sy (施安娜), was fired for three screenshots of friends-only Facebook posts without a full explanation.

According to the HKCTU, many Cathay Pacific employees did not dare to attend the “legally applied” assembly on Wednesday (Aug. 28) protesting against the “white terror” spreading through the company. Instead, parents showed up on their children's behalf, reflecting how terrified the airline's staff is.