Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways is offering a multi-million-dollar out-of-court deal aimed at settling a dispute caused by the sacking of pilots during an industrial dispute in 2001. The offer provides for a cash settlement or the opportunity to apply to return to flying duties.

Members of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), which represents more than 1,000 Cathay pilots, are due to vote on the settlement offer on 15 February. Backed by the union's leadership, the offer is for 10 months' pay or the opportunity to interview for positions on the carrier's freighter fleet.

Cathay has been at odds with its pilots' union for years over pay and rostering issues and in July 2001 union members launched industrial action that badly disrupted flight operations.

The airline sacked 52 pilots during the dispute - three in a first round followed by another 49 soon after - although it later reinstated one with a demotion.

Union members then began providing financial support to the 49 pilots affected by the main round of sackings - known since as the "49ers".

The union has also supported legal action for alleged unfair dismissal that was launched against the carrier in Australia, Hong Kong the UK and USA.

Cathay's settlement offer is contingent upon the legal action being dropped. The HKAOA's leadership, which has been seeking to improve relations with the airline since the SARS outbreak badly affected it in the first half of 2003, is recommending that the membership vote in favour of it.


Source: Flight International