Cathay Pacific's flight attendants union voted in favor of taking industrial action Monday after salary negotiations with the Hong-Kong-based airline stalled.
The union is considering action that would result in flight delays or reduced onboard services, although its members will not go on an all-out strike over the Christmas period, said its general secretary, Tsang Kwok-fung.
Tsang said members are considering work-to-rule action, which means strictly following all rules and procedures to the letter to delay flights. It may also resort to a "safety-first limited service," which means fulfilling only the most basic duties required by the Civil Aviation Department.
"The basic role of a flight attendant is to take care of safety measures on flights and to take passengers from one point to another point safely," Tsang said, adding that serving food and beverages were extra services required by the airline.
Under this scenario, Tsang said flight attendants would likely provide water to passengers, but refrain from non-essential items such as nuts and alcohol. They would also refuse to provide service with a smile.
The FAU would not consider launching a strike until the busy Chinese New Year travel period in early February, Tsang said, to allow travelers sufficient time to make alternate flight arrangements.
The dispute was sparked by the 2% salary increase for 2013 announced by the airline on November 30. The union had requested an increase of 5%, the same rate they had settled for in 2012.
In a press statement, the company said the 2% increase "took into account a number of factors including a loss of more than HK$900 million in the first half of this year and the extremely difficult operating environment we are in."
But Tsang said the 2% offered for 2013 was unreasonable, adding that it was the same rate offered during severe external crises, such as SARS and the worldwide financial crisis.
The airline said it was willing to meet with the union if it withdrew its threat of industrial action.
It has "comprehensive contingency plans" for any industrial actions the union might take, Cathay Pacific spokesperson Elin Wong confirmed, but she declined to provide details.
The union has 6,000 members, representing two thirds of the airline's cabin crew.
It last launched a strike for 17 days in 1993 over Chinese New Year.