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Cathay pilots favour raising funds as buffer amid anger over bonuses

[SINGAPORE] Pilots at Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd voted in favour of raising funds as a buffer against any actions the Hong Kong airline may take against them, such as unilateral benefit changes or job losses, their union said on Friday.

The loss-making company this month extended payment of housing allowances to its pilots for another year, backing down from a plan to cut the stipend ahead of a busy holiday travel period and amid poaching attempts by its rivals.

But pilots remain angry about the airline not paying any year-end bonuses to Hong Kong-based captains, five pilots told Reuters on condition of anonymity, and more than 82 per cent of union members voted in favour of resolutions including raising funds to prepare members for any "industrial escalation".

Cathay said it capped year-end bonuses to junior and mid-level employees at HK$35,000 ($6,045) in Hong Kong, or less than the usual payment of an extra month's salary due to the "difficult financial environment".

Captains, as senior-level employees, did not get any bonus.

More than 400 pilots expressed "how they are currently feeling as employees" to managers after the bonus decision on an internal online forum, according to a memo to the pilots from Director of Flight Operations Anna Thompson that was seen by Reuters.

The airline has around 3,300 pilots globally, two-thirds of whom are union members.