Hong Kong airline Cathay Dragon fires flight attendant union chief

, by CHENG Kris, LEE Danny

 Hong Kong airline Cathay Dragon fires flight attendant union chief amid pressure from China

Kris Cheng (HKPF)

Airline Cathay Dragon has fired the chair of its flight attendant union Rebecca Sy after she allegedly posted messages of support for Hong Kong protesters on Facebook.

An online petition has been launched urging the airline to provide a reason for Sy’s dismissal and to reverse its decision. It also praised Sy for her contribution to the union, saying the airline should respect the right to freedom of speech.

“Our president dedicated her life to our airline, and such effort should not be neglected. If our management is doing such action due to her shared post which [did not do] any harm to our airlines’s image on Facebook, we are urging our company to respect freedom of speech as one of our human rights,” it read.

Sy’s remarks online were screen captured by a former colleague and sent to groups supportive of the government, Apple Daily reported. The former colleague, a relative of a senior police officer, urged people to report Sy to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the report said.

‘White terror’

At a Friday press conference, Sy said she had been able to fly to Beijing and back to Hong Kong on August 19 and 20. However, she was told not to work on a scheduled Hangzhou trip after the Beijing flight.

She said she was told to go to Cathay Pacific’s headquarters on August 21 and was shown three Facebook screenshots which she confirmed were hers.

She was then immediately terminated. Sy said she was told by an officer that “I am sorry I can’t tell you the reason.”

“Our colleagues had tried to follow the rules given by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, I don’t know how much more we have to bend down so that we are safe,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to receive such treatment like mine.”

“This is not just about me. This is about the whole industry. This is about Hong Kong. When will this white terror end?” she added.

Carol Ng, chair of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said the aviation industry was likely targeted because it had the highest participation rate in the August 5 strike.
Ng said the group will file a lawsuit on behalf of Sy. She also said they will file complaints to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and other international unions.
“It is useless to be obedient. It is useless to compromise. We need to fight,” she said.

Cathay Pacific, the parent company of Cathay Dragon, declined to comment on internal employee matters.
In a new statement issued on Friday, Cathay Pacific Director Corporate Affairs James Tong said: “Cathay Pacific wishes to emphasise it fully supports the upholding of the Basic Law and all the rights and freedoms afforded by it.”
“We are a leading international airline with global operations and therefore we are required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the jurisdictions where we operate,” it added.
“Recent weeks have been most challenging for all of our people. We thank all our dedicated staff who are committed to serving our customers in a professional manner.”

Cathay Pacific has faced pressure from China as the CAAC imposed new safety rules on the airline on August 9, forcing the carrier to prevent employees supportive of the Hong Kong protests to board flights to, or passing over, China.

‘Exercise caution’

At around 5pm on Friday 23, Cathay Pacific released a statement saying Sy’s dismissal had nothing to do with her activities in the union but declined to elaborate further on the reason for her departure.

“We would like to reiterate that we do not in any way discriminate against union members or their activities. Any actions taken by the Group with regards to our employees is always in strict accordance with the terms of their relevant employment contracts as well as applicable laws and regulations,” it read.

Last Friday, Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg and top deputy Paul Loo resigned — days after two pilots were fired over incidents connected to the city’s pro-democracy protests.

A new set of guidelines was issued by Cathay Pacific on Wednesday saying that employee’s use of social media inside and outside of work could breach rules imposed by CAAC.
“[E]mployees should always exercise caution about how their social media usage may be relevant to their own employment, the welfare of others and the business,” it said.

Cathay Pacific confirmed on Wednesday 21 that a pilot, who became an internet sensation after expressing support for the city’s protesters, was “no longer an employee” for the carrier.

Lawmaker Jeremy Tam from the pro-democracy Civic Party announced on Tuesday 20 that he was leaving Cathay Pacific, where he had been employed as a pilot for nearly two decades, in order to protect the company from “unreasonable attacks.”

Meanwhile, two Airport Authority staff were fired earlier in the week. Local broadsheet Ming Pao cited sources as saying that the two former employees had worked at managerial levels for almost 20 years.

The revelation came after screenshots of employees discussing airport operations and security were leaked on August 13 while protesters were conducting a sit-in at the airport.

A Hong Kong court on Friday granted an extension to an injunction to clear protesters in the airport except for those in designated areas until further notice.

 Cathay Dragon cabin crew union leader becomes latest casualty of Hong Kong’s political crisis after her employment is ‘terminated’

Danny Lee (SCMP)

Rebecca Sy, chairwoman of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association, given choice of resigning or being fired, sources say
Online petition launched demanding company reinstate Sy, a flight attendant, and explain its actions.

The cabin crew union leader of Cathay Dragon [1] has become the latest casualty of Hong Kong’s political crisis as local airlines buckle under pressure to toe Beijing’s line on taking a stand against the anti-government movement sweeping the city.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions said it would hold a press conference on Friday 23 to disclose the termination of Rebecca Sy On-na, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association.
It described her case as “white terror” but gave no further details on Thursday 22 night.

An online petition has been launched demanding the company reinstate Sy, a flight attendant, and explain its actions.

Parent company Cathay Pacific Airways [2] on Thursday warned staff that their social media content would be heavily scrutinised [3], and said posts expressing support for the ­protests could fall foul of a strict new policy being forced on the airline by mainland China’s aviation authority.

According to sources, Sy was given the choice of resigning or being fired.
It was unclear what act had contributed to her exit. Sy declined to comment.
A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said, “We cannot comment on internal employee matters.”

The petition, on change.org and signed by more than 3,300 people as of 2.30am on Friday, read: “Our president dedicated her life to our airline, and such efforts should not be neglected.
“If our management is doing such action due to her shared [social media] posts which [are] not doing any harm to our airline’s image on Facebook, we urge our company to respect freedom of speech as one of our human rights.”

After the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) targeted Cathay Pacific staff for openly supporting illegal protests, other companies followed Beijing’s directive.
In recent weeks, Sy had rallied members of her near 2,000-member union to back the crisis-hit company and had been discussing with management how to help work through the CAAC’s demands.
The number of people fired or who have resigned from the aviation sector through links to protest-related activities or roles has moved into double digits.

Frontline staff at Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s largest airline group, have been fearful since the company warned of terminations for supporting or joining the illegal protests that have taken place citywide, including at Hong Kong International Airport [6].

The airline’s CEO Rupert Hogg and one of his deputies Paul Loo Kar-pui were ousted [7] last week.

Among frontline employees, four pilots and two ground staff have been dismissed or resigned. They include a pilot charged with rioting in Sheung Wan on July 28.

Pro-democracy lawmaker and former pilot Jeremy Tam Man-ho on Tuesday resigned from the airline [8], hoping to put an end to the political storm around Cathay Pacific.
Meanwhile, a pilot who made remarks supporting a sit-in at the airport in a broadcast to passengers during a flight left the company this week.
Separately, it emerged that two Hong Kong Airport Authority (AA) employees were fired this week.

“The Airport Authority decided to terminate the employment of two staff after completion of internal procedures. The AA will not comment on personnel matters,” a spokeswoman said.

The two individuals were understood to have held managerial roles, one in the terminal and another landside, with a responsibility for transport.
Hong Kong Airlines was last week linked to the exit of one employee. The HNA Group-backed airline warned that any “improper actions” by staff that affected its business, reputation or operations would result in “serious consequences, including termination of employment”.
Among Sy’s union victories, she pushed through changes that ended Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon’s “skirts only” rule for women, which paved the way for female flight attendants to be given the option of wearing trousers.


[1] https://www.scmp.com/topics/cathay-dragon
[2] https://www.scmp.com/topics/cathay-pacific
[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3023884/cathay-pacific-staff-warned-over-social-media-use-airline
[4] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/transport/article/3023479/cathay-pacific-will-bounce-back-new-ceo-tells-staff-he
[5] https://www.scmp.com/news/hongkong/transport/article/3023273/hong-kong-protests-have-caused-severe-turbulence-cathay
[6] https://www.scmp.com/topics/hong-kong-international-airport
[7] https://www.scmp.com/news/hongkong/transport/article/3023129/rupert-hogg-resigns-ceo-cathay-pacific-airways
[8] https://www.scmp.com/news/hongkong/politics/article/3023617/hoping-end-political-storm-related-hong-kong-protests-pro
[9] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3023321/cathaypacific-investigating-rumours-anonymous-letter-staff

 Sacked Cathay Dragon union leader says company asked about Facebook posts before firing her

Danny Lee (SCMP)

https://scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3024171/sacked-cathay-dragon-union-leader-says-management-askedRetour ligne automatique

Cathay Dragon union leader Rebecca Sy says she was questioned by bosses about three Facebook posts and then told she had been dismissed from her job as flight attendant.
Airline’s parent company earlier warned employees that expressing support for protests on social media could breach rules of mainland aviation authority.

An airline cabin crew union leader sacked from her job says Cathay Pacific management asked about her Facebook posts before dismissing her.

In the first account of her firing, Cathay Dragon [1] union leader Rebecca Sy On-na said on Friday 23 she was questioned by management on Wednesday 21 about three Facebook posts, which she believed resulted in her dismissal as a flight attendant.
Sy’s sacking, revealed on Thursday 22 [2], came days after the airline’s parent company Cathay Pacific Group warned employees that expressing support for ongoing protests in Hong Kong on social media could breach the rules of mainland China’s aviation authority.

The chairwoman of the 2,000-strong Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association was the latest of the 14 aviation professionals sacked or who had resigned after Beijing stepped up pressure on companies to take a stand against the anti-government movement sweeping the city.
“My colleagues feel depressed and sad. It is not just about the termination of my job. It is the whole issue – it’s terrifying because of this white terror, a tearful Sy, employed for 17 years by the company, said at a press conference.
“I am so sorry I am no longer in a position to protect them, stand behind them, to back up my colleagues. But what I can do is, I can tell everyone what happened.”

Sy, who was given one month’s severance pay, said she was pulled from her Hangzhou work trip on Tuesday 20 and asked by managers to attend a meeting the following day.
At the meeting with two airline managers, Sy said she was shown three printouts of screenshots from Facebook, which she confirmed were from her account before being told she was fired.
Sy said she demanded an explanation for her dismissal and a manager replied: “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you the reasons.”

She said the first post queried by managers was a “happy birthday” to a colleague, while the second was a reference to her flying patterns, which she had shared so friends knew where she was “if something happened”.
The third was a post expressing her anger about the shock resignations of Cathay Pacific’s CEO and chief customer and commercial officer. But she had urged unity among colleagues because if the company collapsed, all employees would bear the consequences.

Sy did not show the Facebook posts at the press conference, but she said they did not criticise the government or police. She suspected that a colleague, current or former, passed on her private social media activity to management.

In response, the Cathay Pacific Group confirmed Sy was no longer an employee, but it did not explain why her employment was terminated, only saying she was not sacked because of her position or activities in the union.
“Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, when deciding whether to terminate an employee, we take into account all relevant circumstances including applicable regulatory requirements and the employee’s ability to perform his/her job,” a spokeswoman said.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) two weeks ago cracked down on Cathay Pacific, banning its staff who joined unlawful protests in the city from flying into and over mainland airspace, among other measures.
Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg and one of his deputies, Paul Loo Kar-pui, later resigned [5].

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions vowed to take legal action against Sy’s dismissal, and separately, in coordination with representatives of the aviation sector, would not rule out going on strike to protest against suppression of workers’ freedom of expression.

The Civil Aviation Department said it would not comment on personnel issues as its focus was on aviation safety while the Labour Department hoped all parties could resolve matters properly.


[1] https://www.scmp.com/topics/cathay-dragon
[2] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3023987/cabin-crew-union-leader-cathay-dragon-becomes-latest
[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3023884/cathay-pacific-staff-warned-over-social-media-use-airline
[4] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/transport/article/3023479/cathay-pacific-will-bounce-back-new-ceo-tells-staff-he
[5] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/transport/article/3023129/rupert-hogg-resigns-ceo-cathay-pacific-airways