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149 staff laid off as Cathay Pacific Airlines closes Vancouver base

Last Updated Mar 6, 2020 at 12:59 am PDT

FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2019, file photo, ground crew drive past Cathay Pacific Airways planes park at the Hong Kong International Airport. Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways is asking its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave while the Hong Kong carrier struggles with plunging revenue due to China's virus outbreak. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

147 flight attendants and two office staff will be laid off

The base is set to close in June

'They are citing commercial viability--with the coronavirus in Hong Kong and the protests earlier:' union president

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — One hundred and forty nine Vancouver-based employees at Cathay Pacific will be out of their jobs come June.

Employees were informed of the airline’s decision to shutter the local base Thursday morning.

“They just told us that they’re going to close the base,” says David Chan, CUPE Local 4088 President.

“They are citing commercial viability–with the coronavirus in Hong Kong and the protests earlier. That’s the reason they had.”

The union represents 147 flight attendants, all of whom will be laid off as of June 26. The two non-union workers who run the office will also be laid off.

Flight attendants have been working without a contract since February of 2019.

“When we had our contract negotiations they made it very clear they didn’t want to sign a contract beyond two years. They made it very clear they will not be hiring to replace those members who left the company. Our numbers were shrinking day-by-day.”

In September the airline cancelled the Vancouver – New York route which had been running since the late ’90s.

Chan says they were told this move put the “viability of the base in question” and it prompted many staff to look for jobs elsewhere.

He says he is worried about his prospects with other airlines.

“I am at an age where it’s difficult to find a job as a flight attendant. Flight attendants are age-sensitive.”

He says union members like him who have been with the company for decades have risen through the ranks, and starting from scratch at a new company means they will lose their seniority.

“They’ll be going to the bottom of the pile. That makes it a bit difficult for the senior crew members. Some people are angry that after all these years of dedicated service we were just let go like that.”

He says the move is particularly upsetting for the married couples who work at the company.

“Both lose their jobs with young kids and a family, it’s hard financially for some.