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Learning English

Words, Words, Words

Flight attendant This week's topic: Industrial action by Cathay Pacific Staff

7th January 1999

In this section we take a look at some of the language used in a recent news report. This week, the flight attendants of Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific are threatening to stop smiling at passengers. Extracts are from a report by BBC Correspondent, Jill McGivering.

Extract 1: Jill McGivering

"The flight attendant's union is looking for new ways of increasing pressure on the airline's management because the two sides have failed to reach agreement on proposed new terms after several months of negotiations. Some flight attendants began on Tuesday to wear protest badges on their uniforms. Now union leaders say the next step could be a campaign to stop smiling at passengers for one hour each flight as a sign of their discontent. The union's chairman told the BBC the action would be a way of expressing their feelings without resorting to strike action."

flight attendant: a person who serves food and drink on an aeroplane. Also known as cabin crew or air stewardess ( female ) orair steward ( male )

failed to reach agreement: a common way in 'news English' to say 'did not agree', particularly at the end of long negotiations

negotiations: formal discussions to talk about a problem and find a solution

union: short for trade union, a workers' organisation that tries to improve such things as the pay and working conditions of its members

strike: when there is a strike, workers stop working for a period of time to try and get better pay or conditions

Extract 2: Jill McGivering

"Cathay Pacific has presented its staff with three options: either they work an extra four hours a week in return for a three and half per cent pay rise, accept a pay freeze, or take voluntary redundancy. A spokesman for the airline said the passengers were innocent in the issue and she hoped the staff would be more sensible than to take industrial action. In the present economic climate, she added, the airline had no choice but to look at ways of managing costs."

options: choices, alternatives

a pay rise: an increase in the money received for a job

a pay freeze: a stop on any pay increases for workers for a period of time

voluntary redundancy: if an employee takes voluntary redundancy, they offer to leave their job because the employer needs to reduce costs. Often someone who volunteers to leave their job in this way is paid a lump sum of money

to take industrial action: when a group of workers take industrial action they stop working or do something to protest about their pay or working conditions. See 'strike' above

economic climate: the economic situation at the time


This week's "Words, Words, Words" is written by Keith Ricketts


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Words in 1997

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