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Cathay Pacific, Pilots Will Talk

June 10, 1999

HONG KONG (AP) _ One day ahead of Cathay Pacific Airways’ deadline for pilots to either take a pay cut or leave the company, the two sides met privately to try to resolve the dispute that already has grounded hundreds of flights and could deteriorate into a strike.

Cathay bosses and representatives of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association met for 11 hours in a session that began Wednesday and ended early Thursday. They declined public comment but have agreed to keep talking.

Meantime, pilots kept phoning in sick en masse, saying the company’s layoff threats have left them too stressed out to fly.

Cathay canceled 75 of its 119 flights on Thursday, but said it had hired other airlines to fly 46 of the services on a charter basis to keep as many passengers as possible in the air.

Cathay and the pilots have agreed to a news blackout until the negotiations end, the general secretary of the pilots union, John Findlay, said by telephone Thursday.

It was too soon to say whether any progress could be made, said Cathay spokeswoman Katherine Wang.

Cathay is demanding that the pilots take pay cuts averaging 7 percent over two years in exchange for stock options, as the Hong Kong carrier tries to slash costs and return to profitability. Cathay last year suffered its first full-year loss in 35 years as the Asian economic crisis and Hong Kong’s recession hurt the demand for air travel.

The pilots have said they will take a strike vote if anyone is fired in the dispute.

More than 85,000 passengers have been affected since Cathay gave the pilots their ultimatum on May 28.

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