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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 9, 2002
UNITED STATES CONGRESS ALERTED TO CATHAY PACIFIC PILOT DISPUTE
ALPA Warns U.S. Government Officials of the Potential for Eroding Labour Standards Worldwide
WASHINGTON, DC—This week, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), the world’s largest pilots’ union, warned the United States Congress about the eroding standards for workers in Hong Kong that threaten to dismantle existing standards for labour relations worldwide. The current dispute between Cathay Pacific Airways and its pilots’ union, the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), was cited as a prime example of this potential for global harm.
In a letter to several U.S. Senators and Representatives, ALPA asked the U.S. Congress to raise the dispute with Hong Kong Government officials. It further questioned Cathay Pacific’s consistent disrespect for accepted international labour conventions and the Hong Kong Government’s subsequent failure to intervene and end the impasse, now the longest running labour dispute in Asia’s history.
"The United States has always been at the forefront of pursuing improved rights and protection for workers. This is not limited to employees in the United States, but around the world as well. Consequently, ALPA is attempting to draw U.S. Government attention to the deplorable situation happening in Hong Kong at the hands of Cathay Pacific Airways. We believe that our government should be gravely concerned about a situation that is, in effect, serving to erode the standards for workers in the aviation industry throughout the world and in the U.S. We have urged Congress to help put an end to these shameful practices," said Captain Duane Woerth, President of ALPA.
Cathay Pacific Airways’ major shareholder is the international Swire Group, based in England, which also has major U.S. interests.
To date, 20 international labour organizations, representing 27 million workers around the world, have urged Cathay Pacific executives and Hong Kong Government officials to resolve this dispute. The AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) have each expressed their concerns to the Hong Kong Government by specifically asking the Commissioner of Labour to take action. Despite repeated inquiries by these labour groups the Hong Kong Government has ignored all such requests.
Cathay Pacific’s use of tactics such as unjust termination and unauthorized contract revisions are illegal in the U.S. and throughout much of the rest of the world. The unwarranted firing of 51 pilots last July resulted in 49 lawsuits in four countries: Australia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. The HKAOA meanwhile has repeatedly attempted to open the lines of communication with company management to discuss these issues, but has been rebuffed on each and every occasion.
"We are grateful for the support of ALPA and its attempts to bring this matter to the attention of the U.S. Government," said John Findlay, HKAOA General Secretary. He continued, "Sadly, the deck is very much stacked against employees in Hong Kong. Our lack of protection allows companies such as Cathay Pacific to operate according to any set of principles they choose. This is a worrying practice for a company that also seeks to gain further access to the U.S with developing international agreements. No matter how many times we ask management to come back to the negotiating table, we are rebuffed. Now with the possible involvement of U.S. Government officials, we hope that Cathay Pacific management will realize the international embarrassment that this is causing our company and Hong Kong, and finally agree to sit down to talk."
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Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s oldest and largest pilot union, representing more than 66,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Website at www.alpa.org.
About the HKAOA
The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA) was established in 1963 to represent the interests of pilots and flight engineers employed by Cathay Pacific Airways. Its objectives are to protect and further the interests of the aircrew profession and to safeguard and improve the interests and rights of members of the Association. The HKAOA is the representative group for the 1,600 pilots of Cathay Pacific Airways. Visit the HKAOA Website at bbs.hkalpa.org.