Cathay Pacific concedes key demand in medical plan dispute with cabin crew


Hong Kong (XFN-ASIA) - Cathay Pacific Airways conceded a key demand in a dispute with flight attendants over a controversial new medical plan, but the staff union refused to rule out a Christmas strike.

The Hong Kong carrier's cabin crew are threatening to walk out over a new medical insurance policy which insists they pay for doctor visits for the first time. The company said late yesterday that it would now allow its 10,000 staff and their dependents 10 free visits before they have to begin paying. The allowance would only apply in 2008, the first year of the new scheme.

But despite the changes, Becky Kwan, chairman of the Flight Attendants Union (FAU), said they would continue with a planned protest on Thursday, aiming to eclipse the 500 cabin crew that marched earlier this month.

"We are encouraged by the concessions made after the show of solidarity of our members," she told Agence France-Presse. "However, it is clear to us that there is no need or justification to introduce any charges for doctors visits," she added.

Kwan said she will assess the turnout at Thursday's rally to see if support for any future action is solid. A spokeswoman for Cathay Pacific said they thought the new scheme was "one of the best staff medical plans available in Hong Kong."

"Cathay Pacific urges the FAU to take into account the concerns of the public and our customers and their fellow employees at this busy time," the statement added.

Hong Kong is a key hub for Cathay, with more than 100 flights daily across the world. Any strike would be the first by cabin staff for more than 15 years.

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