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Pilot Employment Dispute Resolution and Wrongful Termination Compensation

Below is a news report on pilot employment disputes in China. Under Chinese law, pilot employment contract termination is not the same as other positions. There are specific regulation regarding how pilot employment dispute shall be settled and resolved. We are experienced in pilot employment dispute and have assisted several pilots and airline companies in their labor dispute matters.

Ten pilots on Friday said they had accepted a court ruling that they should pay compensation to China Eastern Airlines (CEA) to release them from their employment contracts.

The Intermediate People's Court in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, made the ruling at the second hearing of the case on Wednesday, ordering the pilots to pay about 8 million yuan (US$1 million) in total to leave the company, which was 1 million yuan less than the sum demanded at the first hearing in November last year

"Each of us would pay from 500,000 yuan to 900,000 yuan to the company, according to the verdict," Li Fengyong, one of the pilots, told Xinhua.

He said all of the pilots signed tenure contracts with CEA's Wuhan subsidiary, under which they could be fined if they resigned.

Li said he had been working for CEA since 1999, and the oldest of the ten pilots since 1995. Their workloads were "too heavy and involved immense pressure".

"The court's judgement helped annul our contracts with CEA. However, we fear the company will not accept the result, and refuse to give back our pilot certificates," he said.

Li said CEA demanded a 2.1-million-yuan penalty fee if a pilot left the company.

"Some people in the company told us to look for a new employer who could help us pay the full penalty fee, since the compensation ordered by the court was far from enough to cover the company's losses," he said.

CEA, China's third-largest carrier, said in April that the pilots' resignations would induce heavy losses for the company, which included its investment in pilot training.

The ten pilots were among 13 CEA staff who made a collective resignation in early 2007, which the company immediately rejected.

The company then made a countercharge against the pilots, seeking 100 million yuan in compensation for their unilateral termination of the contracts.

Three of the pilots returned to work after the first trial. The other pilots insisted to fight for the lawsuit.
Zhang Qihuai, a legal expert with the China University of Political Science and Law, said he had told the pilots in a legal consultation that the compensation of 8 million yuan would be acceptable, since the amount was about what the company paid for training the pilots.

"Most of state-owned carriers in China sign tenure contracts with pilots to prevent them from breaking away from the company," Zhang said.

Company officials in Wuhan and Shanghai declined to comment on the pilots' announcement on Friday.

CEA has been involved in several controversies this year, in which the company's pilots "reversed course" by landing at their destinations and taking off without letting passengers disembark.

These "return flights" were suspected of being protests over pay and working conditions.

Please contact us if you have pilot employment/labor dispute questions.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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