Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 10:44 UK

China pay row pilots 'turn back'

A China Eastern plane
China Eastern saw flights from Kunming disrupted

A row over pay at several Chinese airlines has seen pilots disrupt flights, according to state media.

At China Eastern Airlines, 14 pilots turned back mid-flight blaming bad weather, despite other aircraft travelling normally, the reports said.

And there are claims that other pilots co-ordinated "sick days" - with about 40 Shanghai Airlines crew not coming to work on one day last month.

They are reportedly angry over deals tying them to their employer.

Rare protest

Pilots have been told to sign 99-year deals with state-owned airlines which force them to pay up to 2.1 million yuan ($300,000; 150,000) if they quit, China Radio International said.

The contracts are thought to be aimed at stopping the poaching of pilots by rival carriers.

The station added that China's Civil Aviation Administration had held an emergency meeting to address the problem - with threats of life bans issued for those found responsible for organising the action.

China Eastern said that the 14 pilots who took off from Kunming, in the south west of the country, before returning to the airport, had done so because of the weather.

Industrial action is rare in China - where unauthorised protests and trade unions are banned.


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