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  10 pilots told to pay $1.17m to leave airline

The courts have ordered 10 pilots of China Eastern Airlines to compensate their employer a total of nearly 8 million yuan ($1.17 million) for leaving their jobs, local media has reported.

The Wuhan Intermediate People's Court ruled on Thursday that each of the pilots was to compensate the airline's branch in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, 700,000 to 1 million yuan, depending on their service term and the training programs they received, the Changjiang Times reported.

Zhang Hua, who was ordered to pay 700,000 yuan to the airline, told the paper that the ruling was of no surprise to him.

Still, he said he did not regret leaving China Eastern.

"I don't want to live under constant high pressure," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"I want to work for a company that is humane and that has a relaxed atmosphere."

In May last year, 13 pilots of the Wuhan branch of China Eastern handed in their resignations and were asked to pay a total compensation of more than 100 million yuan. The employer claimed that the money was to compensate it for the investments it made to train the pilots.

In August, the provincial labor arbitration committee ordered the 13 pilots to pay more than 9 million yuan to compensate the airline for their departure.

Daunted by the large amount, three of the pilots reportedly withdrew their resignations. The remaining 10 pilots brought their case to the Qiaokou District People's Court.

The court later announced that the 10 pilots should compensate their employer a total of nearly 10 million yuan. The airline lodged an appeal to the Wuhan Intermediate People's Court, which made the final ruling this Thursday.

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 being ordered by the courts was reasonable, since the amount was about what the company had paid for training the pilots.

"Most State-owned carriers in China sign tenure contracts with pilots to prevent them from leaving the company," Zhang said.

Company officials in Wuhan and Shanghai declined to comment on the ruling on Friday.

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