Hong Kong Airlines slashes 170 jobs

Employees are demanding transparency and fair severance packages from the embattled firm

Hong Kong Airlines slashes 170 jobs

Hong Kong Airlines sacked over 170 employees last week, most of whom were flight attendants.

The move follows the airlines’ long-standing financial difficulties, and reduced demand due to the city’s struggles with protests and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Affected employees and the union have reported concerns over severance packages.

Earlier this month, the airline announced plans to cut 400 jobs. The retrenchment exercise last Wednesday was made after the airline did a “recent review of its operational requirements”, according to the South China Morning Post.

Employees made redundant were reportedly given one-month notice.

READ MORE: Cathay Pacific asks staff to take unpaid leave amid virus outbreak

Carol Ng, chairwoman of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said airline employees have raised concerns over the retrenchments. Top one being severance payouts.

The airline announced that flight attendants would be paid an extra month, plus accrued but unused annual leave, while severance based on years of service would be considered.

Employees however are concerned they’ll only receive a base salary, which typically makes up only part of the monthly wage. Additional pay per month is based on flying hours.

A base salary may start from HK$7,800 ($1,400). Including flying hours crew members earn an average of HK$20,000 ($3,600).

The airline told the Post that severance payouts will be based on average total daily wage, including flying hours, for the past 12 months.

Another issue was the alleged immediate cut in access to work emails and internal company profiles, said Ng. These platforms show details on salary pay and overtime hours.

READ MORE: Protests force Hong Kong Airlines to delay salaries

“Some of the crew have been working for 10 years or more,” Ng said. “They believe they’ve made the company successful, and the criteria for choosing the ones to make redundant is not clear.”

Retrenchment exercises are stressful affairs for all parties involved. An industry insider shared with HRD some tips to manage one.

  1. Be open where possible

Don’t pretend there isn’t a threat of retrenchment and give employees false hope. The backlash upon learning they are retrenched will be worse to bear, and the employees who managed to keep their jobs will have less trust in HR and the management.

  1. Give a reasonable notice period

Springing a surprise retrenchment exercise causes a lot of sudden grief and insecurity in employees. One-month advance notice is a norm for unionised companies.

  1. Involve the union

If your company is unionised, include the union in retrenchment exercises as they may be able to help manage the emotions of retrenched employees.

  1. Don’t kill off your chances of hiring talent

Although your organisation is retrenching, there may be some departments which still want to hire.

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