HONG KONG - CATHAY Pacific Airways could face major disruptions over the Christmas period if flight attendants launch a strike to protest against a new medical insurance plan.
Cathay cabin crew will hold a demonstration next week to protest against the new policy that requires all staff to pay a standard fee for doctor and specialist consultations, Mr T.K. Lee, general secretary of the Flight Attendants Union, said yesterday.
'We will have to see what happens after that as to whether we will take industrial action,' Mr Lee said. 'Our members are very unhappy with the co-payment scheme.'
The previous policy had no co-payment requirements for visits to the doctor.
Calling in sick en-masse and refusing to serve passengers on planes were some of the measures members of the union discussed at a meeting on Monday, he said.
The union covers about 4,900 staff at the Hong Kong-based carrier.
If the threat goes ahead, it would be the first time in nearly 15 years that Cathay cabin crew have gone on strike.
The new medical insurance policy, to take effect on Jan 1, will require junior staff to co-pay HK$30 (S$6) to see a doctor and HK$50 to see a specialist. Senior staff will pay HK$50 for a consultation with a doctor and HK$100 for a specialist.
Take-home pay for an entry-level cabin crew member is about HK$15,000 a month.
Mr Lee said the union sent a letter to Cathay management yesterday urging them to hold talks, but had not received a response.
Cathay says the new plan offers employees better coverage. The airline said it was prepared to discuss the matter with the union, but had no plans to drop the new plan.
'It is not as though we are asking them to pay more for the same benefits. The benefits have been greatly enhanced, with higher upper limits and greater coverage for things like X-rays and laboratory tests,' a spokesman for the carrier said.
'We introduced this scheme in November and have had several consultations with staff, including cabin crew and ground staff,' she said, requesting anonymity in line with company policy.
Cathay operates more than 100 flights daily to Asia, the United States and Europe.
The carrier was working on contingency plans should the cabin crew follow through with their threat to strike, the airline's spokesman said.