In an effort to counter what is described as rampant workplace theft, Cathay Pacific security officials have instituted a policy of randomly inspecting cabin crew members’ personal items. So far, the searches have resulted in at least six employees being investigated and referred for possible termination under the airline’s strict zero-tolerance policy.
Cathay Pacific crew members are learning that the Hong Kong-based carrier means business when it comes to its crackdown on flight attendants taking home supplies intended for passengers. In addition to reminding its workforce of a strict zero-tolerance policy on employee theft, the airline has recently started to randomly search crew members following flights. So far, at least six crew members have already been nabbed during a sting that took place this weekend.
“In view of an increasing number of reported losses of company property, we have informed our cabin crew that random inspections will be carried out,” the airline told the South China Morning News. “We are dealing with cases in a fair and reasonable manner in accordance with standard internal procedure.”
Citing unnamed company sources, the newspaper reported that incidents of petty theft have cost the airline “untold hundreds of millions.” Items purloined from flights over the years have included glassware, silverware, leftover pieces of bread and single-serve cartons of Häagen-Dazs (some flight attendants are said to have freezers full of the pilfered frozen treat at home).
Airline officials gave employees ample notice that the aggressive enforcement actions were in the works. Crew members were warned that the removal of company property big or small would be considered theft.
“Zero tolerance means you are not permitted to take off the aircraft any item other than what the company has authorized as per the policy,” company officials wrote in an internal memo that predated this weekend’s random searches. “If anyone removes company property, irrespective of the value or if you believe it will be thrown away, you will be subject to discipline which may include termination.”
Union officials say they respect the airline’s right to protect itself from employee theft but notes that the company has in the past used this same zero tolerance policy in the past to retaliate against labor leaders under oftentimes dubious circumstances. One-time strike leader, Chong Cheng-lin, was fired in 1993 for the “crime” of taking home some nuts, a water bottle, and an in-flight magazine. She later won a multimillion-dollar defamation settlement against the airline.
“All staff understand there is a policy posted very clearly on the company intranet,” Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union (FAU) chairperson Vera Wu Yee-mei told reporters. “You would be putting your career in a very risky position, just for water, bread or a pen. The company always talks about costs, and maybe lately they find the discrepancies are increasing.”
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