Cathay Pacific Airways pilots have narrowly defeated a proposal that would have introduced a roster system to curb fatigue on condition they halt their long-running industrial action and that their union would launch no additional actions until 2019.
The rejection meant the work-to-rule action, ongoing since December 2014, would continue at Hong Kong's flagship airline. Cathay Pacific has already drastically scaled back its expansion plans this year, which included new international routes, because of the action.
Of the 2,004 pilots who cast ballots, 53 percent voted against the proposal and 46 percent for it.
The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, representing 2,100 of the airline's 2,900 pilots, wrote to its members on Friday: "While many of you may be disappointed given the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the agreement, as well as the potential benefits for both parties, a majority of you have decided that this deal is inadequate and have rejected it as such."
The union's general secretary Chris Beebe told the Post the union would collect pilots' views as soon as possible. He respected the result, saying the vote came from a "democratic process".
The work-to-rule action commenced in December 2014 over a pay-rise dispute. Although that issue had been resolved, pilots vowed to continue the action because of other disputes, focusing on what they claimed were poor roster patterns that had led to serious fatigue.
The work-to-rule action required pilots to do the bare minimum as laid out in their contracts, including not working on their days off, as they typically had.
Under the rejected proposal, a new computer-based rostering system would have been introduced. Pilots earlier complained that rampant fatigue had put aviation safety at risk.
In addition, for the next two years, the cockpit crew were in line to receive a pay raise of 2.5 percent. If the Consumer Price Index (C), measuring inflation rates for high income-earners, exceeded an agreed benchmark of 3 percent, pilots would have received half of the percentage increase exceeding the 3 percent benchmark. If the CPI (C) was 4 per cent, the extra raise would be 0.5 percent.
The dominant complaint about the proposal related to a clause stipulating the union could not launch or support additional industrial actions until around mid-2019.
But a source who backed the proposal said it did not actually ban union pilots from raising motions for industrial action.
"It was a lack of trust in the airline management that led to the proposal's rejection," the source said.
A Cathay spokesman said the airline was disappointed with the vote result.
"A lot of work was put in by the negotiating teams to reach a Tentative Agreement that both the HKAOA General Committee and Cathay Pacific could work with, and it is very disappointing that we will not benefit from this," he said.
"In view of the latest development today, Cathay Pacific will focus on continuing to run its operations effectively and meeting its growth targets."
He also said the tentative agreement was reached to make sure the airline could continue to grow and make necessary changes to improve operations.
"Industrial peace for the life of the agreement was an outcome that both sides agreed was important to enable all parties to move forward in a positive and constructive manner," he added.