Cathay Pacific freezes new hiring, to focus on cost cuts

Cathay last month swung to its first profit for the January-June period since 2016. (File/Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2019

Cathay Pacific freezes new hiring, to focus on cost cuts

  • Cathay has said it will cut capacity for the upcoming winter season after reporting an 11.3% fall in passenger numbers for August
  • The weak demand and cuts to capacity will heap more pressure on Cathay and its new management

HONG KONG: Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. has put a freeze on new hiring, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, as the airline battles a slump in demand from fliers avoiding Hong Kong amid massive anti-government protests in the city.
In a memo to staff on Wednesday evening, new Chief Executive Augustus Tang said he had asked executives to examine spending and focus on cutting costs. The airline will also not replace departing employees in non-flying positions unless approved by a spending control committee, he said.
Cathay has said it will cut capacity for the upcoming winter season after reporting an 11.3% fall in passenger numbers for August. The airline does not expect September to be any less difficult, while analysts have projected it could swing to a loss in the second half.
Cathay shares fell 2.4% early on Thursday, lagging the benchmark Hang Seng Index that was down 0.4%.
The weak demand and cuts to capacity will heap more pressure on Cathay and its new management, appointed after CEO Rupert Hogg quit last month in a shock move and the resignation of Chairman John Slosar last week.
Cathay, which is trying to complete a three-year financial turnaround plan, has become the biggest corporate casualty of the Hong Kong protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or supporting, the demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.
Jefferies analyst Andrew Lee told clients he expected the airline could swing to a HK$973 million ($124.1 million) loss in the second half of the year. BOCOM International analyst Luya You said second-half earnings could be “notably dismal.”
Cathay last month swung to its first profit for the January-June period since 2016 and said at the time that the second half was likely to be better as usual due to seasonality.


General Motors and workers union contract expires, increases risk of strike

Updated 15 September 2019

General Motors and workers union contract expires, increases risk of strike

  • Union officials told General Motors they would let the contract lapse just before midnight Saturday
  • A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM’s US production

DETROIT: The four-year contract between General Motors and the United Auto Workers has expired as negotiations on a new deal continue.
Union officials told GM they would let the contract lapse just before midnight Saturday, increasing the risk of a strike as early as Sunday night. Union members working Sunday were to report as scheduled.
But there was a wrinkle. About 850 UAW-represented janitors who work for Aramark, a separate company, went on strike Sunday after working under an extended contract since March of 2018, the union said.
The strike covered eight GM facilities in Ohio and Michigan. Although UAW workers at GM are supposed to work, it wasn’t clear early Sunday whether the rank-and-file would cross their own union’s picket lines. GM said in a statement that it has contingency plans for any disruptions from the Aramark strike.
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a letter to members that, after months of bargaining, both the union and GM are far apart on issues such as wages, health care, temporary employees, job security and profit-sharing.
The union’s executive leaders and a larger group of plant-level officials will meet Sunday morning to decide the union’s next steps.
The letter to members and another one to GM were aimed at turning up the pressure on GM negotiators.
“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard working Americans ahead of their record profits,” Dittes, the union’s chief bargainer with GM, said in a statement Saturday night.
Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank, said the union could strike at GM after the contract expires.
“If they’re not extending the agreement, then that would leave them open to strike,” she said.
But GM, in a statement Saturday night, still held out hope for an agreement, saying it continues to work on solutions.
“We are prepared to negotiate around the clock because there are thousands of GM families and their communities — and many thousands more at our dealerships and suppliers — counting on us for their livelihood. Our goal remains on building a strong future for our employees and our business,” the GM statement said.
A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM’s US production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.
The union’s executive board was to meet early Sunday to talk about the union’s next steps, followed by a meeting in Detroit of plant-level union leaders from all over the country. An announcement was scheduled for after the meetings end.
If there is a strike, it would be the union’s first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.
The move by the union also comes as it faces an internal struggle over a federal corruption investigation that has touched its president, Gary Jones. Some union members are calling for Jones to step down while the investigation continues. But Friday night, union leaders did not remove Jones.
Union officials surely will face questions about the expanding investigation that snared a top official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It’s the same region that Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year. Jones has not been charged.
On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors was still set to expire Saturday night.
The union has picked GM, which is more profitable than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, as the target company, meaning it’s the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout. Picket line schedules already have been posted near the entrance to one local UAW office in Detroit.
Talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because GM plans to close four US factories. The union has promised to fight the closures.