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Cathay Pacific says decision to fire staff in wake of protests not made ‘lightly’

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Cathay Pacific’s whistle-blowing policy – which has been in place since 2016 – is coming under scrutiny amid fears it could be used for reprisals for staff who took part in non-sanctioned anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

There have been a number of pilots sacked in recent months in relation to this issue. CEO Rupert Hogg also stepped down earlier this month following the ongoing controversy, while an airport was shut down for several days due to protests being held at Chek Lap Kok.

Cathay reiterated in late August that involvement in illegal political activities would not be tolerated, and could lead to an investigation and dismissal from the airline.

Tom Owen, the airline’s director (of) people and its highest ranked human resources professional, told staff in a memo on 29 August that any dismissals Cathay had made followed “a careful and formal review process involving senior leadership”, it was reported in the SCMP.

“We do not take any of these decisions lightly and for every decision we make, we believe it is in the best interests of the Cathay Pacific Group, taking into account all the relevant factors,” he said.

Owen added that any employees involved in activities that brought the company into disrepute that restricted the airline’s ability to meet “applicable legal or regulatory requirements, may attract disciplinary consequences, including termination of employment” would be dealt with accordingly.

This last point is in relation to the airline submitting names of employees to Chinese authorities prior to flights entering China. Any employees rejected by China faced wider implications as it would prevent them from flights to China, Europe, the US and Canada – meaning such staff could only be scheduled to work on a relatively small number of flights.

Employees of Hong Kong’s flagship carrier are reportedly afraid colleagues could use the whistle-blowing policy to spy on and punish staff who have been involved in anti-government protests.

In late August, Cathay also warned employees in a notice that social media postings would be monitored, telling staff that “you are accountable for what is posted into the public domain from your personal social media account”, adding that employees could not post content that would bring the company into disrepute, put the privacy of employees at risk or appear as an endorsement from the airline.

The first Managing Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace online course will be launched in December.
Register your interest for the course at the introductory price of SGD199.

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