Hong Kong’s attempts to rebuild its ailing tourism sector suffered a setback after staff at its flag carrier Cathay Pacific voted in favor of industrial action.
Flight attendants will ‘work to rule’ over the Christmas period, effectively banning overtime and limiting work to only the hours of their contracts.
The action follows complaints that cabin crew face ‘inhumane’ flight patterns, ‘perpetual downsizing’ and extra workload.
In an open letter to Cathay Pacific chief executive Augustus Tang earlier this month, staff said they had “worked hard without hesitation to save the company, while fighting for their own lives on uncompetitive salaries. “.
A Cathay Pacific spokesperson said flights would continue as planned despite the strike and said: ‘There is no need to worry.
However, the labor dispute is dealing a blow to Hong Kong’s attempt to repair its reputation as an international tourist destination.
Visits to the former British territory have plummeted in recent years as tough Covid restrictions and increasingly authoritarian policies put in place by the Chinese government have put travelers off.
Arrivals were just 173,000 in the third quarter of the year, according to official government figures, compared to 16.6 million in the second quarter of 2019.
Hong Kong is trying to woo visitors by relaxing its Covid quarantine policy, allowing visitors to go to restaurants and bars as soon as they arrive if they have been vaccinated. Previously, they were banned from public areas for three days after arrival.
The loss of tourism hurt Hong Kong’s economy, which shrank 4.5% in the third quarter according to official government figures.
Businesses are also deserting the region. About half of European businesses based in Hong Kong said they plan to leave Hong Kong wholly or partially within a year in a poll conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong this spring.
Hedge fund Myriad closed its Hong Kong office after 11 years, Bloomberg reported in May, blaming Covid restrictions that had made it difficult for its executives and fund managers to travel.
Some leaders are also concerned about the national security law passed by the Chinese government in 2020, which has made it much easier for Beijing to crack down on any activities it considers “dissident”, such as protests and activism. .
The number of financial firms setting up offices in Singapore has tripled since 2019 as companies seek an alternative base in Asia.
A Cathay Pacific spokesperson said: “Cathay Pacific is grateful for the hard work and commitment shown by our cabin crew throughout the difficult years of the pandemic.
“While we know that building the roster will not be perfected overnight with the many constraints we still face as we recover, we are committed to doing everything possible to continuously improve the quality of the list, especially as we gradually resume our operations after the pandemic.
“We appreciate the patience of our cabin crew.”