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China Eastern Pilots Threaten to Resign

Nine China Eastern Airlines (CEA) pilots have threatened to resign if issues between them and the company cannot be resolved.

But the Nanjing-based company said on Tuesday that they are still trying to work out their differences.

"We are still trying to persuade them to stay," Lin Yi, a company official, said.

The situation has been complicated by postings on the Internet purportedly written by one of the nine disgruntled pilots.

"Joseph 75" (the writer's username) published a letter on several local websites last weekend, claiming that pilots in the company had not been properly paid, and criticizing the airlines' management and safety policies.

"We talked with the leaders of the company several times, but they paid no attention to our rational appeals for better pay. So we have no choice but to resign," Joseph 75's letter read.

"This is untrue information about the company. We will try to find out who he is and take him to court," Lin said.

Lin denied that CEA has safety and management problems.

According to Lin, the dispute is mainly about pay.

Local media has reported that the annual salary offered by CEA is lower than that offered by other airlines.

But Lin insisted that CEA pilot salaries are "definitely higher than the national average".

Sources with CEA Media Relations Department told China Daily that the dispute is also connected to the employment of family members of the nine pilots.

Pilots' family members are often given well-paid jobs within the company, the sources claimed, a privilege that has not been extended to the nine pilots.

None of the nine pilots has admitted to being Joseph 75, the sources added.

The company announced yesterday that the nine pilots have stopped flying, and they are in negotiations with company leaders.

Lin said that, as CEA had invested a lot of time and money in the pilots' training, the company hopes to resolve the problems and have the pilots return to work as soon as possible.

But he added that the loss of the pilots will not influence the normal operation of the company as they have 170 pilots to fly their 14 aircraft.

According to analysts, the resignation threats might have been triggered by the current shortage of pilots.

Statistics from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) show that Chinese airlines, which have seen annual customer numbers rise by 38 percent, are expected to face a shortage of 40,000 pilots over the next 20 years.

In view of this, the CAAC raised the statutory retirement age of pilots from 60 to 63 in July.

But analysts said that this in itself is not enough. Some airlines have gone further to increase salaries in the hope of poaching pilots.

(China Daily November 23, 2005)


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