Cathay employees expose culture fears in Hong Kong's flagship

"I (had) acted as a so-called & # 39; aggressive & # 39; demonstrator," says Ricky. "My role was to extinguish all tear gas to protect other citizens and protesters as well."

"Fear is spreading," says Ricky. "You can tell that the company is being torn apart and starting to break apart."

Staff morale is low, he says. Everyone is paranoid. "Basically, I think there is no trust between crew and office staff right now, everyone (s) are scared," he says.

Cathay Pacific – an iconic Hong Kong brand – has been investigated from China after months of protests in the city, triggered by a proposed extradition proposal with China, but which has been turned into a broader anti-government movement. Three of the largest marches led more than a million people to the streets, according to organizers. Dozens of minor protests have been held over the summer, many of them violent, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets, and protesters who threw bricks and gasoline bombs.
In mid-August, Cathay announced that they would follow a new directive issued by China's Civil Aviation Administration that banned employees from working on flights in China if they supported "illegal protests." In the same week, several days of protests at Hong Kong International Airport ended in chaos and forced cancellation of hundreds of Cathay flights. Cathay's CEO, Rupert Hogg, and Paul Loo, chief of commerce, resigned a few days later.

On August 28, Cathay Pacific released a revised Employee Code of Conduct, seen by CNN, which includes sections on social media posts, encouraging employees to "talk" if they see the code breach as part of an "alert" policy.

Since then, Cathay employees tell CNN that dozens of people have been fired from the company. [1[ads1]9659002] In response to a request from CNN, Cathay Pacific said that any dismissal of employees is in accordance with relevant employment agreements. Their statement added that the company is required to comply with the regulations "prescribed by mainland China authorities … there is no reason for compromise."

  Protesters attend a meeting to support Cathay Pacific employees in Hong Kong after some of the airline's employees were fired for supporting opposition to a controversial extradition proposal.

Notification culture

Now the mood of the company is "very gloomy," according to another Cathay pilot, Jack, who also spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity.

"The majority is extremely supportive of the movement, but not all," says Jack.

Those who are not, he adds, now condemn their colleagues.

"Some cabin crews support overnight accommodation, and have given the employees names to the company that has talked about supporting the protests and was terminated from there," says Jack. "The company has actively asked for whistleblowers to come forward and create a separation between employees."

The result, he says, is a growing culture of fear.

"Everyone has deleted chat groups and social media (profiles) that have any mention of the protests," says Jack. "Cabin crew will not even talk about the protests in the open, let alone admit they are participating in protests."

  The week in which Cathay Pacific surrendered to China

In recent months, Cathay flights landing in China also became the subject of additional inspections by airport officials, Jack says.

"Checking all safety compliance for our flights in China is now very common," he said. "They are intense and stressful for the crew."

Crew members also pay extra attention when they arrive in China, he adds.

"Security controls have increased in intensity, personal phones have been inspected," Jack says. "The crew is now leaving the phone at home or taking a new & # 39; China & # 39; phone to work. "

Many Cathay workers have a name for this growing turmoil: & # 39; white terror. & # 39; They say it seeps into every aspect of the business.

" When in the case of white terror, I would say it feels unsafe, it's uncertain, "Cathay staff member Paul told CNN, on condition of anonymity." We wouldn't know if it's our last day today, for tomorrow when we come in, we may not even be able to enter the building anymore. "

The term & # 39; white terror & # 39; originated in the French Revolution, and is often used to describe mass persecution of dissidents in political breakdowns, including Taiwan's decade of war law until 1987.

Paul believes that Cathay's drive to encourage whistleblowing is characteristic of Chinese-style communism.

is almost like China's cultural revolution, you encourage people to sell out their peers, "he says. "People can take your words or take your things out of context, and they can still report you."

The turnaround in Cathay Pacific is particularly disturbing to Hong Kong people, given the 73-year-old company has a reputation for excellence – it was named Skytrax's Airline of the Year four times – and is a major employer in Hong Kong, with nearly 20 000 locally based employees.

On a daily basis, it has created a working culture that is becoming increasingly difficult to carry, says Sam, a crew from Cathay who wanted to remain anonymous.

"I want to say that in Cathay right now, everyone is sort of in stealth mode," says Sam. "So whatever you do, whatever you say, then you look around before you talk on the phone, you look around before you check your phone, and you will think about what to say before you want to say it."

Younger employees are particularly affected by this internal cultural shift, she says.

"The several junior teams will look at their mouths or just smile and nod because they are so afraid of being reported," says Sam.

Cultural change

Long-term employees say that no one is exempt from changing mood. A senior aviation leader and union organizer for Cathay Dragon, Rebecca Sy, was one of the first employees to be laid off under the new regime.

"In the beginning, I was shocked," Sy says. "Very disappointed, frustrated."

Sy had worked for Cathay Dragon, a low cost airline, for 17 years, and says she had a good relationship with the company. She tells CNN that she was called to a meeting, asked to identify three screenshots from her Facebook account, and was then fired on the spot.

  A senior aviation leader and union organizer for Cathay Dragon, Rebecca Sy, was one of the first employees to be laid off.

She says she attended some of the authorized protests in Hong Kong, but says her Facebook account did not violate the company's code of conduct. In response to CNN, Cathay says they do not comment on individual dismissal cases.

"It's my first job since I graduated from university," Sy says. "I loved my job … to me it's very special."

But the mood of the company is changing rapidly, she says, as employees are "so afraid and afraid."

"They are all losing faith, losing hope with this company," Sy says. "(They) cannot enjoy freedom of speech."

It is a pattern that is repeated at other workplaces in Hong Kong, she says.

"It's not just Cathay (who is) being targeted," Sy says, adding that it's happening in other businesses as well as hospitals and schools in town.

Cathay is majority owned by Swire Pacific. The Anglo-Hong Kong Conglomerate, founded in 1816, maintains a diversified business portfolio – including a large property portfolio across China.

The company's capitulation to Beijing's demands sends a strong message about the power of China's economic stance over Hong Kong.

Analysts say the Chinese government is increasing its efforts to control companies and push them to align with the party line.
  Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Lee Cheuk-yan, states that the so-called & # 39; white terror & # 39; spreads to other industries.

Lee Cheuk-yan, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, says he has also seen evidence of so-called & # 39; white terror & # 39; in other sectors, including the banking industry.

"This is now widespread in Hong Kong and something we are very concerned about because our political beliefs are being compromised," he says. "So if you want a job, if you want to live safe, you have to be pro-China …. it will be disastrous for Hong Kong."

For many of the employees still working at Cathay, the dramatic change in dynamics has come as a surprise, especially to those who once respected the company's culture and ethos.

"I can say that Cathay Pacific (had) a prejudiced culture," says Paul. "I can no longer say the same."

But he says the fear that spreads through the company will not change what the staff believes.

"Freedom of speech, opinions, and freedom of speech, that's how my family raised me to be," Paul says. put us in a company, but then you can't just change us. "

Source link

Back to top button