Serving the community, civil service morale and flight safety – refuges of rascals

It’s that time of the year again. Water spontaneously oozes from every concrete pore of every building, leaving an embarrassing damp patch stretching all the way from Pokfulam to Quarry Bay. Battalions of cockroaches push and shove their way out of drains and alleyways, pausing briefly to blink in the daylight before executing their giant annual pincer movement around the whole city. And – by far the worst of all – tiresome clichéd self-interest masquerading as public-spiritedness spouts from the mouths of scoundrels and wastrels.

Former government officials insist on ‘serving the community’, whether the community wants it or not. Legislator Regina Ip has been loudly proclaiming her determination to ‘serve’ us for a while now, daydreaming of being Chief Executive, and now angling for a post in the next government. All in our interests, of course.

She is not alone. It is hard to see how someone who manages to spectacularly lose a rigged make-believe election can be of much help to anyone, except maybe a writer of tragic comedy. But there he is: Henry Tang, announcing with a straight face that after all his basement/wife and other disasters, he wishes to ‘serve the public’. (Serve a sentence, perhaps. And by one of those cosmic coincidences that fill our lives with unceasing wonder, what arrives on my desk at this very moment but a second-hand copy of You Are Going to Prison from Amazon?)

Meanwhile, that old spurious, hypocritical, whining, lame attempt at emotional blackmail ‘civil service morale’ rears its head again, with the inevitable price-tag attached. The government actually takes ‘civil service morale’ into consideration when deciding on what it blandly calls the bureaucracy’s pay adjustments. Other factors include “net pay trend indicators … the state of Hong Kong’s economy, the Government’s fiscal position, changes in the cost of living [and, ludicrously] the staff sides’ pay claims.” Does anyone – anyone working in the private sector, perhaps – notice something missing from this list? A word beginning with ‘P’?

As numerous commentators have noted over the years, no-one else in Hong Kong seems to have morale, or at least morale problems. Not the population as a whole, nor socio-economic or geographical groups within it. So far as we see or hear, elderly men condemned to living in cages or families having to bring up kids in subdivided slums somehow manage to keep their spirits up. But enjoy job security, allowances, salary levels shockingly higher than private-sector equivalents, plus free pensions on full salary for life, and you become a psychological wreck unless you are pampered and worshipped and spoon-fed and reassured every hour of the day. No wonder they can’t drag themselves away from ‘serving the community’.

Actually, one segment of our capable, determined, can-do, non-state-employed citizenry suffers from self-centred, infantile poor-pitiful-me syndrome: Cathay Pacific flying staff. On the radio the other morning, the news team gave CX management around 10 seconds to explain why they were offering cabin crew voluntary unpaid leave – a popular option among those who want a sabbatical – followed by what seemed like an hour of some union leader droning away about how awful it would be if such a scheme were compulsory, oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t.

CX crew have their own equivalent of ‘civil service morale’ emotional blackmail. The same union leader is now bleating about her members having to work round-trips back to Hong Kong on regional routes. The stress and strain, she insists, could jeopardize passenger safety. (Quick reminder: the work is essentially light waitressing.) No, what is really at jeopardy here – we might conjecture because we’re nasty that way – is cabin crews’ overnight allowances, which are hefty and paid in cash so the Hong Kong tax authorities don’t know about it.

You might think that the big, tough, highly qualified, often military-trained guys in Cathay’s cockpits might be less prone to whimpering about every little inconvenience that comes their way. But in today’s Standard the awful truth comes out: some of the poor little mites travel between duty stations on cargo flights, and even sleep on the floor!

I’ve been on one of these freighters. People hitching a ride on one do not get shoved down in the cold, dark metallic bottom of the fuselage, squatting between containers of electronics and shipments of seafood. The bubble behind the cockpit has low-density business-class seating, with restroom and, if I recall, a small galley. It’s nicer than a passenger flight. And, yes, that means you can stretch out on the floor. But the pilots’ union is talking of taking the airline to court. If the poor, highly sensitive and vulnerable wretches have to take positioning flights without a choice between fish and chicken, 25 movie channels and a neck massage, there will be tantrums, foot-stamping and ‘questions about flight safety’. Then you’ll all be sorry.

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26 Responses to Serving the community, civil service morale and flight safety – refuges of rascals

  1. Comrade B. Lugosi says:

    What will a socialist government do after it gets into power? That V.I.Lenin wrote in “Petty-Bourgeois and Proletarian Socialism”:

    “After winning liberty, it will abolish the rule of the landlords and bureaucrats in the administration of the state.”

    The end of privileges for emigrés and foreign flunkies, the carnage of civil servants, the incarceration of anti-revolutionary elements…it’s all the talk here in Undeadland. My friend Mr Marat put it this way:

    “Five or six hundred heads cut off would have assured your repose, freedom and happiness.”

    whilst naughty Mr Robespierre said:

    “Terror is only justice: prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country.”

    Even that nice Mr Mao has chipped in with his pithy bits of Oriental wisdom:

    “Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.”

    Revolution in 2012 in Hong Kong? Unthinkable. Après nous le déluge!

  2. Headache says:

    How far in advance do you prepare these, Bela? I think you’ve finally taken over from RTP as the commenter here who most needs to go get their own (damned) blog.

  3. Sir Crispin says:

    I fully concur, spot-on today Hemmers.

  4. Joe Blow says:

    So that blimp from the Lands Department who got caught with his hand in the cookiejar was also suffering from bad ‘civil service morale’ ?

    And the closed-shop union of CX busdrivers is still unable to keep morale up despite the fact that their employer is forced to promote from within, even if the candidates are unfit, or too fat, or too expensive ?

  5. pcrghlll says:

    Yes, Headache! Comments are supposed to be just that, aren’t they? Off the cuff, ideally wry. And not limericks or regurgitating your 2.2 dissertation!

  6. Mary Hinge says:

    In other news: The filibuster is over … with less than 1/3rd of the amendments debated … stopped in its prime by the LegCo president.

    The entire pro-democracy camp should now resign en masse, and say that any successful pro-dem replacements in the resultant by-elections will themselves resign 6 months later to try to put the current incumbents back in. And the whole process should be sold as a referendum on fixing what is just about to be broken.

  7. Big Al says:

    Just as everything that happens to the Civil Service that doesn’t include a pay rise affects morale, so everything you want to do on an aircraft affects safety. Where does all this safety bullshit come from? Seat backs upright? Flight safety! Tray tables stowed? Flight safety?

    Window blinds up? Flight safety! I mean, come on. How will not raising my window blind cause the aircraft to explode into a deadly fireball when it comes in to land?

    … feeling better now. Thanks!

  8. Neckache says:

    Are vampires parasitical?

    Get it now Headache?

  9. darovia says:

    CX people threatening action? Why are they are going against their long-established principles? Firstly, it isn’t within two weeks of a major holiday and secondly, while they have brought up the question of flight safety they have missed out the bit that says, “We don’t want to cause any inconvenience to the travelling public but…” What’s happening here; has the world gone mad?

  10. Spartacus says:

    CX and freighters: The CX spokeswoman said: “Although crew positioning on freighter aircraft is a long-established practice, the provisions for crew positioning in the current conditions of service do not mention crew positioning on freighter aircraft,” she added.

    CX management misleading the public and being economical with the truth AGAIN! Crew positioning on freighters was, indeed, a long-established practice: for pilots of a cut-price hiring company called ASL (now defunct). It is not practice for CX pilots.

    Current conditions of service, indeed, do NOT mention crew positioning on freighters – because they specifically say that pilots will travel Business Class on passenger aircraft!

    If anyone is HK is naive enough to believe CX management, or their spokespeople, then you deserve to be cheated they same way they treat their employees (I am not one).

    It’s simply whether you want to sign a contract and have the other party abide by what they agreed to do. How would you feel if you paid for a CX ticket to London but they dropped you off in Milan? It’s close enough, right?!

    Let the courts decide: they have done repeatedly over the years and will again on 27th August when the long-running 49ers case goes to the Court of Final Appeal. And yes, the Courts have already decided that CX management (Tyler and Chen) lied to the public/defamed the pilots in 2001. The FInal Appeal is about the amount of damages – not the fact that CX were “economical with the truth”.

    PS Joe Blow: it can’t be a closed-shop if a minority of pilots choose not to be in the union. But there again – who needs accuracy?

  11. fumier says:

    How do you know if there’s a pilot in the room?

    He’ll tell you.

    Boom! Boom!

  12. Chopped Onions says:

    ” serving the community” roughly translates in civil service speak as: 1st class seat on the gravy train” I think, but then it’s been awhile since I actually met one and was able to confirm their strange dictation..

  13. Joe Blow says:

    @ Spartacus :PS Joe Blow: it can’t be a closed-shop if a minority of pilots choose not to be in the union. But there again – who needs accuracy?

    Yes, and the majority are in the union, and they keep the company from hiring anyone they want, based on merit. Or don’t they, Spartacus ?

    CX union pilots are no better than Arthur Scargill and his ilk. They just get better much pay (for driving the bus).

    An Oirish CX pilot told me years ago that if CX started training and employing Chinese pilots, it would most certainly affect safety and ‘planes would go down’.

  14. BillyBob Hicks says:

    Bravo Hemmers! What a brilliant post! Spot on!

    Thank the lords you spent high tea in a vigorous exchange with your numerous connections amongst Shamshuipo’s cage-dwellers gauging their well-being, no their morale no less! “Dear Uncle Wong, how is financial destitution and cage life suiting you?” “Why Dear Hemlock! Splendid Sir! And thank you for asking! And caring!””Oh Uncle Wong, please sir. You make me blush. Keep that chin up up up Uncle. Remember, you are the tip of my finely honed foil when it comes time to belittle the various segments of whingy Lychee. Nothing delights more than contrasting the mealy-mouthed moaning of self-serving politicos, useless bureaurats, overpaid waitresses and glorified bus drivers with that magnificent stoicism with which you shoulder the asceticism of cage life.”

    And lucky us… that you are on such intimate terms with Hong Kong’s downtrodden you can actually assess, nay, poll the collective sentiment and conclude with smug satisfaction that the view from the bottom is… why… splendid!

    Ah… to be a fat-bellied lordship of means… living a life of modest splendor amongst the various dolts, idiots, whiners, hussies, floozies and other annoying vermin that provide the delicious fodder for those stolen moments composing an anonymous blog while pretending to provide that keen well-paid kwailo insight to the poor dumb yellow people. “Be right there boss! Just finishing up on the interim report!” Big smile follows.

    Can’t wait for another delectable diatribe tomorrow. Hmmm… whom to belittle tomorrow… let’s see…. so many morons… so little time….

  15. Real Tax Payer says:

    Am I mistaken, or did yesterday’s news ( in the SCMP at least) say that Tang is trying to negotiate with BD to get his basement “legalised “?

    If so, and even more so if he is successful, that really pulls the rug out from under Carrie Lam and her battle with the HKY

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    “I have been trying my best to work with the Buildings Department, hoping to obtain approval as soon as possible to undo [what was built illegally],” Tang said. “Many professionals are dealing with it now, so the issue involves the department and is none of the ICAC’s business.”

    Yes I was correct . Tang IS trying to get his illegal basement legalised

    Rat – fink .

  17. Dawei says:

    The power of the unions is somewhat interesting at CX, for most other airlines there are very thin operating margins and so industrial action of any sort can and does result in the whole airline going down. Usually the unions are well aware of this fact.

    CX basically runs a duopoly out of HK on each route flown whihc enables them to charge higher prices. They actively lobby the Gov to maintain CX privileged position on the grounds that it is important for HK to have a carrier with a hub here and that this enables them to bring more people to HK. The unions are not stupid and have realised that management does not want to to turn this bountiful tap off and will give on their demands to keep things running. At the end of the day it is our tickets stubs that are paying for all of this. Free the skies now.

  18. maugrim says:

    Billy Bob, you really don’t get it do you?

  19. nulle says:

    boys and gals…today’s flight attedents do more than what you stated..especially trained to react in emergency situtations, including dying pax, nut-jobs, morons, fires on cabin, decompression, etc.

    pilot’s job isn’t as easy as you think. they need the rest while commuting..remember what could go wrong during a flight and you need the pilots to deal with them, on top of what the flight attendants deal with.

    before you complain about someone else, try being in their shoes first…

    one more thing, having PRC pilots are disasters waiting to happen especially considering the number of flight disasters occurred in China (resulting all pax perishing) the last 10 years, that’s on top of PRC pilots can’t speak/don’t understand proper english from the tower. It is NOT unheard of in PRC for pilots lied their way to the chair (regarding to having a license and the training to fly…)

    if any airlines worldwide employ PRC pilots, I would avoid those airlines, period.

  20. BillyBob Hicks says:


    No Hemmie, you really don’t get it. But thank you for offering absolutely nothing by way of substantive retort.

    The CX issues aren’t in the remotest about whingy pilots crying for their creature comforts. They’re about Swire honouring existing contracts they themselves wrote. Now Swire wants to change the game plan out of the blue… like the spoiled bratty tycoons running your beloved stinking Lychee into the dirt every other day. Sound familiar? I guess not. YOU sir really do NOT get it.

    “I’ve been on one of these freighters.” Oh were you? And how long exactly were you there pray tell? 18 hours? 30 hours? You have absolutely ZERO conception what the proposed working conditions are that Swire are putting forward with freighter PXing for pilots.

    I especially enjoy your double-shotted slander of flight attendants. Please let’s do take away more of their money and make them work harder. Those bubble-headed Tai Tai’s of the airwaves with their fat-bloated salaries. Nothing but glorified waitresses…. no wait… waitresses do _more_ don’t they. Silly tarts. Who do they think they are wanting to keep their earnings. Pffff……

    Now Enough of the whinging and belly-aching middle class. Get on with your pathetic bus driving and sky waitressing and STFU already. Work more for less you cry-baby parasites. You’re upsetting my afternoon nappie here in the cozie comfort of my high-and mighty 88th floor corner office. I need my power nappie so I can come up with more and brilliant ideas to justify my very own exclusive employment contract not subject to ridicule or second-guessing by anonymous internet curs.

  21. T. Axman says:

    “… cabin crews’ overnight allowances, which are hefty and paid in cash so the Hong Kong tax authorities don’t know about it.”

    We do now.

    Thank you, Mr. Hemlock.

  22. Pcrghll says:

    Wow. That guy’s angry about something or other

  23. BillyBob Hicks says:

    @ “T.axman”… revenue collectors. Hemmie’s largest readership no doubt. ROFL.

    I’m sure if Hemmie had an overnight trip on behest of the Big Boss and his overnight per diem was $100 HKD he wouldn’t characterize it as “hefty,” but of course if a CX Sky Taitai dare accrue $100 HKD it’s filthy lucre. Not to mention that “overnight allowances” are hardly a dastardly scheme invented by the conniving SkyTaitai’s but rather a practice pursued across the broad spectrum of airplane flying companies… or, another way of saying, “industry standard.”

    @Pcrghll You picked up on that eh. How perceptive

    What’s actually amusing is, the staunch critic of Hong Kong’s ruling Tycoonocracy decides to throw down on the side of Swire in a dispute with its employees, apparently because he doesn’t really understand the dynamics of the aviation industry nearly as well as he thought he did, and because the smug overpaid CX plebes dare attempt collective bargaining, the silly scum. And obviously, silly and ineffective bureaurats are one thing…. but they’re still 88th floor material after all, and we blokes in our sky suites must stick together.

    Yes Pcrghll. I’m angry about something

    or other

    One-liner rejoinders. Last refuge of the tongue-tied.


  24. Jon Dica says:

    +1,000 points for incorporation of the My Little Airport cover shot 😀

  25. Geraldo says:

    I have no idea what the overnight allowance is worth to CX Cabin Crew but it certainly made a big difference to BA cabin crew’s take-home pay,given the UK levels of taxation, especially over-night allowances to places like Tokyo. A flight attendant who chose to maintain a low profile staying in the overnight hotel and not hitting the town could do very nicely thank you.

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