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Old 14th May 2012, 10:25
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: HKG
Posts: 1,384
Freighter PX'ing AOA update

As this affects everyones COS I paste below.

Yesterday you received an email from the GMA entitled "Crew Positioning on Freighter Aircraft". This Special Update deals with the numerous issues presented by this email, as well as clarifying why we recommend that you do not sign the Consent Form cited in the message from the GMA.

As many of you will recall, this issue has been around for some time and has been talked about in numerous Weekly Updates over the past two years or so. The reason this issue has often been highlighted is that it has been the source of numerous complaints by both passenger and freighter pilots over the years. This is so because positioning of crews on freighter aircraft is a violation of everyone's CoS! It is VERY important to remember that freighter flying was rightfully returned to the Cathay Pacific Seniority list through the FACA at the SAME time that the current COS provisions on Positioning were collectively negotiated. Many freighter-only pilots joined us in the years that followed and were NEVER rostered to position on the freighter, but occasionally they may have asked to do so. Many years later, in violation of the CoS, the rostering of passenger and freighter pilots to position on freighter aircraft began. Back then positioning on the freighter was rare, but today it is the norm rather than the occasional exception.

Additionally, this issue has been the source of a number of grievances over the past few years, and is also the subject of potential litigation by the HKAOA that has been formulated to enforce the CoS provisions governing crew positioning. The HKAOA was set to file a lawsuit on this issue and our lawyers sent a Letter Before Action to Cathay informing them that if this situation was not satisfactorily addressed through an Undertaking whereby this illegal practice was stopped, we would pursue a legal remedy through the Hong Kong court system. It is significant that this Letter Before Action was sent on 28 March 2011, and in the intervening time we have exercised a great deal of restraint and attempted on numerous occasions to negotiate a settlement to this issue.

Subsequent to the Letter Before Action being sent, discussions between the DFO and the Association leadership were initiated and it was decided that a negotiated settlement should be pursued rather than proceeding to court. We relied on this good faith promise to seek a mutually acceptable negotiated solution, but we now see a blatant attempt to bypass any negotiations and unilaterally impose a "solution" to this problem. Of course, it is no surprise that the "solution" is heavily one sided and in favour of the Company, but we'll discuss those issues later in this Special Update.

As you may also be aware, of late there were a number of grievances filed on this issue, and these grievances were resolved in favour of the pilots who filed them. Each of these grievances promised that in the future the pilot who filed the grievance would not be either asked or rostered to position on freighter aircraft. With that trend evolving it seemed apparent that a universal settlement to this issue might be within everyone's grasp. In fact, to determine if such an effort would be supported by the line pilots a request was made by the HKAOA GC for pilots to put their names forward if they desired not to be positioned on freighter aircraft. Unsurprisingly, we received in excess of 600 responses from pilots who declared their desire not to be PXed on the freighter, and many expressed their potential willingness to file a grievance over PXing on the freighter in the hope of receiving similar relief that the previous pilots received from this ongoing and blatant violation of their Conditions of Service. We still have these names on file and have not ruled out requesting that these pilots file grievances.

One would think at this point a settlement would be the most logical and rational way to ultimately resolve this issue and put it to rest. We all know that in a settlement both sides generally get something they desire, so it would seem that this would be the most productive way forward. Apparently, not all of the parties have this same mindset. The HKAOA is well aware that sometimes it suits an Officer to position on the freighter. However, that decision should be an individual choice and not one that is forced on a pilot and then declared “irrevocable”.

So, this leads us up to where we are today and the current GMA email.

The GMA's Email

This is an interesting document, to say the least. Seldom do you see such a brash attempt at turning a losing proposition into a unilateral victory. There's an old saying in law—if the facts in a case are on your side, argue the facts; if the law in a case is on your side, argue the law. Here the Company has neither the facts nor the law on their side so they have elected to use intimidation and threats to argue their case. Unfortunately, this method is not generally the most productive way to foster good labour relations, especially at a time when the labourers may be asked for "assistance" if hard times do happen to materialise in the not-too-distant future. Furthermore, the threatening tone of GMA’s email is particularly interesting in that it has been sent less than a week after all pilots were enrolled in the online “Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace” course in Learner’s World.

For our discussion, let's start with the MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION REGARDING CREW POSITIONING ON FREIGHTER AIRCRAFT portion of the GMA’s email.

In the first section entitled Reasons for Crew Positioning on freighter aircraft we see the Company making their case for using positioning on the freighter. We all certainly understand that there are a great deal of efficiencies and conveniences (in scheduling, eg.) for the Company by utilizing freighter aircraft to position crews, but the last item in this list pretty much tells the whole story. It reads: "Revenue enhancement and cost avoidance". The bottom line for the Company is that positioning on the freighter is more convenient, easier to schedule and administrate, and also much cheaper than the alternatives.

So, what could be the problem with this from a pilot's perspective? Well, from the complaints we continue to get the "problem" is that the freighter PXing system is constantly abused in the name of "convenience" and "revenue enhancement and cost avoidance", and often results in pilots being flown all over the system and having their lives and normal schedules disrupted to the point of causing extended and unnecessary additional time away from home as well as causing, in some cases, duty periods in excess of 30 hours. Such examples as: PXing a LAX based pilot from Chicago to Anchorage to Los Angeles to get him home instead of buying a commercial ticket on another carrier; having a pilot sit in Frankfurt and waiting for five or six hours to catch a freighter flight (no cost) rather than putting him on a CX passenger flight that leaves in one hour; or any number of other examples where the main consideration was cost rather than life style and/or rest issues for the crew member.

Often pilots do not get adequate rest (or any rest) while PXing on the freighter. We hear stories about pilots having to sleep on the floor of the aircraft because bunks are unavailable, and that they do not always get food provided on sometimes extremely long flight segments. Neither of these situations is conducive to overall flight safety, nor is it safe to drive home after completing a 30 hour duty. Furthermore, this is simply not an acceptable way for the Company to treat its employees whilst they are on duty, and as previously indicated this practice it is a breach of everyone’s CoS.

This page of the GMA’s email also contains the first of a number of not-so-thinly-veiled threats. For example: "Officers are also requested to consider that:
if the Company decides to continue Crew Positioning on freighter aircraft and an Officer has not agreed to do so, this will limit his/her opportunities for "swaps" and other requested positioning changes.
there may be some other broader implications for Base locations and manning levels if Crew Positioning is limited to passenger aircraft only, as this will increase the cost and operational complexity of Crew Positioning, which may materially impact and [sic] viability of some Base locations and Base manning levels."

With language like this bandied about we have to wonder why the Company would have in the first instance ever agreed, presumably in good faith, to the current CoS provision that precludes positioning on the freighter. Surely these "points" would have been considered when this provision was originally agreed, would they not? It seems the Company team that negotiated them in 1999 would have done so.

On the next page we see ACTION TO BE TAKEN REGARDING CREW POSITIONING ON FREIGHTER AIRCRAFT. In the two sub sections on this page we see more veiled threats, but also we see a unilateral attempt by the Company to renegotiate your CoS by imposing conditions that are favourable only to them. In other words, this is a "take it or leave it" offer, and it's also "irrevocable". And, by the way, you only have until 28 May to make up your mind. These would be pretty strict "negotiating parameters" in anybody's book.

And the last page entitled "GO FORWARD" POLICY OPTIONS REGARDING CREW POSITIONING ON FREIGHTER AIRCRAFT. Note that in both scenarios the language begins with "If the Company decides". No one would argue that the Company would have the right to "decide" these rules if this practice was legal, but it isn't. This is why a negotiated settlement should have been pursued rather than an attempt being made at a unilateral imposition/implementation. Once again we see unnecessary confrontation where cooperation would surely produce a better result.

The Way Forward

For well over a year now we have waited patiently and have been ready to sit down and find a solution to this issue. We all know that there are times when pilots may prefer to position on freighter aircraft, whether this positioning is for their own convenience or to help the Company out from both a scheduling and/or cost perspective. We still stand ready to negotiate a reasonable solution that can accommodate the needs of the vast majority of the Cathay pilots and the Company. We are puzzled as to why management cannot see that this would not only be a reasonable way forward but would be the best way forward. We will approach them one more time to see if we can get them to deal with your elected representatives here in Hong Kong, just as they will have to deal with the bargaining representatives in Australia and Canada, and pursue this issue through the collective bargaining process in those venues. There used to be a time when the Company had a recognition agreement with the HKAOA that stated we are the representatives for Cathay Pacific Pilots. It appears the new GMA would rather have individual negotiations with the over 1800 HKAOA members on all matters relating to their CoS.

In short, this whole process, which virtually dictates the new "rules" for PXing on the freighter, is totally unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. We cannot allow the Company to unilaterally impose a "solution" to an issue like this which is a blatant violation of our CoS, and we must insist that this type of issue be resolved through either a legitimate negotiation or a grievance, or we will have no choice but to pursue other remedies.

As for how to proceed, the HKAOA GC strongly recommends that no one sign any Consent Forms.

Within the next few days we will be asking you to sign up to a second online list, similar to the one that over 600 of you already put your names on, stating that you did not wish to be positioned on the freighter. Similar to the first list, this second list will be also be sent to all the Chief Pilots and to GMA, stating that all the pilots on the list wish the matter of PXing on the freighter to be discussed between the Company and the AOA as a Global Issue, and not under intimidatory circumstances and threatening terms on an individual basis

This process is what we have been pursuing and advocating for quite some time. We have been very reasonable, have exercised restraint and acted in good faith by not filing a lawsuit with the expectation that we would find a reasonable solution to this situation through a negotiated settlement. As stated above, we stand ready to pursue this avenue at the Company's convenience.

If these efforts do not produce a resolution to the problem we stand ready to file the lawsuit we originally drafted to address this violation of our CoS.

Finally, I think we all understand that this is not a difficult problem to solve and that we can do so in a manner acceptable and beneficial to both the Company and the pilots. We urge you to inform the Company that this is your desire and that you will not accept these types of imposed terms, or any attempt to impose them in this intimidating manner.

Thank you for your support, and we urge you to stand together on this issue for the collective good of all Cathay pilots.
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