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April 2006
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June 2006

Mad as Hell

Julian Harniess was on ATV's Newsline yesterday.  Amazingly, he wasn't the most entertaining guest - that honour when to Damien Vance, an Australian who is chairman of the Native English-Speaking Teachers' Association.  It wasn't clear why Mr Vance had been invited on to the program, unless it was to make Julian Harniess look good, because he professed to know nothing about ESF salaries and conditions and didn't even seem to be sure whether he sympathised with ESF teachers or not.

At least Julian Harniess knew why he was there - he wants the world to know why ESF teachers are (to paraphrase Howard Beale) mad as hell and are not going to take this anymore.

He argued that it was unreasonable to recruit teachers in May 2005 and then announce pay cuts a few months later, which sounds like a fair point until you realize that the pay cuts will not take effect (for those staff) until September 2007.  Yes, teachers who joined earlier will have their pay cut this September, but they are getting far more warning than most people in Hong Kong who have had their pay cut over the last few years.

He also defended their ludicrous advertisement from earlier this year, describing it as a "fact box".  Except that many of the so-called "facts" were contentious or just plain wrong.  He even defended the alarmist prediction he made last year of an "exodus" of ESF teachers even though the turnover is actually a little lower than last year.  Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument, eh, Julian?  To his credit, Frank Ching did give him a hard time about this, but mostly he was able to waffle away unchecked.

The only sensible person on the panel was Katherine Forestier, who is not only the Education Editor of the SCMP but also has three children at ESF schools (though this was not mentioned).  Why not let her go head-to-head with Julian Harniess rather than cluttering the place up with the others?

As for the ESF, somebody needs to bang some heads together.  TVB showed "Billy Elliot" last week - I wonder if Heather du Quesnay or Julian Harniess watched it and whether they learned anything from it.   


Better, cheaper...fewer

Maybe someone from AMC Cinemas took notice of my recent complaint.  They have not only implemented an Internet Booking system, but it is actually better than the one used by UA Cinemas - firstly because it's all one site (UA send you off to Cityline where you have to switch to English, find the film and enter your password) and secondly because there's no booking fee.

Unfortunately, AMC will shortly be closing 4 of the 11 screens they have at Festival Walk, and I figure that will mean fewer films in English.

However, to make up for this they will be taking over part of the space previously occupied by UA in Festival Walk Pacific Place (another mall owned by Swire).  Note that the new cinema will be smaller than the old one.

According to the SCMP, the rents charged for cinemas are significantly lower than they are for shops.  A cinema pays its way by attracting visitors to the mall, and similar logic applies to other "anchor tenants" such as department stores.  When opening a new mall, you need those guys, but once you get established maybe you can manage without them. 

Swire, the owners of Pacific Place, have already demonstrated their confidence by getting rid of Marks & Spencer, and now they are reducing the number of cinema screens as well.

Time to buy shares in Swire?


More options

Air New Zealand will be flying from Hong Kong to London starting in October, which provides another interesting option.  Like Qantas, their flight leaves a bit too early in the morning (8.15) to be ideal, but competition has to be a good thing and they have more legroom in both economy and 'premium economy' than BA or Virgin. 

Or there's Finnair, who will be flying direct from Hong Kong to Helsinki from the middle of May (currently they fly via Bangkok).  The selling point here is that the total journey time from HK to London (including transit) is 14.5 hours, which is only a little worse than direct flights and significantly better than almost all the other airlines with non-direct flights.  I suppose the reason is that Helsinki is on the route from Hong Kong to London (and maybe it's a small airport as well). 

Finnair have a curious offer of an economy ticket for HK$10k - with a free upgrade to business class one way only.  The biggest negative is no seat-back TVs in economy, so you probably want to take a good book.