Qatar Airways inclusion ‘disgraces oneworld alliance’ (Scoop Media, 25/10/2013)

Qatar Airways’ imminent membership of world aviation grouping the oneworld alliance – which includes global giants such as British Airways and American Airlines – was today branded “a disgrace” by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation).

The global union federation, which recently exposed the airline’s treatment of its female staff, is leading protests against its accession to oneworld on Monday 30 October. Along with its member aviation trade unions, the ITF is questioning how a company that prohibits its female workers from becoming pregnant or marrying, and subjects its staff to stringent curfews and restrictions of their rights to free expression – backed up with the threat of termination and deportation – can take its place alongside leading airlines whose host countries respect international norms and conventions on human and labour rights.

The ITF’s recent exposure of the airline’s staff policies* sparked a number of messages from serving and former staff, who have provided evidence of further abuses. These are being raised with oneworld airlines, including British Airways, which has been outspoken in its support for Qatar Airways’ membership, and with the Skytrax agency, whose five star rating allowed it to join.

Over ninety percent of Qatar Airways (QA) staff are from other countries. Any infringement of the draconian regulations imposed on them are likely to result in sacking and deportation. These regulations include:

QA contracts bar female workers from marrying for five years. Even after that period they must seek the airline’s permission to marry

Contracts state that the company can terminate employment from the date of notification of a pregnancy; failing to notify the employer or concealing a pregnancy is a breach of contract. There is no maternity leave; pregnancy equals loss of the job.

· All workers have to sign confidentiality agreements that stay in effect even after they have left the company

The current code of conduct for cabin crew (reproduced in full below, under More information) includes provisions such as:

Information pertaining to the company must never be disclosed to or discussed with any person outside of Qatar Airways
Consuming alcohol when in uniform, on or off duty is strictly prohibited. Crewmembers are prohibited from entering a bar in uniform even if only to have a glass of water or soft drink
Smoking, chewing gum, the use of mobile phones and other entertainment gadgets whilst in uniform, are also not permitted under any circumstances
Eating or drinking in public are not permitted except in coffee shops or restaurants of crew layover hotel or airport. Changing into civilian clothes at the technical building or at any airport is strictly prohibited
Female cabin crew using non-QA transport except taxi or limousine service vehicles, whether in uniform or not, may not be dropped off at or picked up from any Qatar Airways official premises, by a male other than her father, brother or husband
The company reserves the right to feature selected members of employees in any publicity or promotional materials. All copyright and any other intellectual property rights in all such materials shall vest in and be the exclusive property of the company to use as it deems necessary in its absolute discretion and without any right or entitlement to any compensation whatsoever
Cabin crew are not permitted to volunteer themselves as a witness to any passenger complaint/s whether in the aircraft, at the airport or at any other location
Once employed by Qatar Airways, cabin crew must exclusively dedicate their time towards the fulfillment of their job function

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “The labour relations at Qatar Airways are a running sore on the face of the global aviation industry. Autocratic, overbearing and near-dictatorial, this airline gains control and competitive advantage by ignoring International Labour Organization conventions on worker rights. Its treatment of its employees borders on the appalling.

“In its current form it is not a fit partner for the members of the oneworld alliance. Its inclusion is a disgrace. If it is going to beaccepted as a world class airline then it has to make fundamental changes throughout its entire structure. Those changes have to start at the top, with the replacement of its CEO, Akbar Al-Bakr, who is responsible for much of the disastrous relations with its own employees – and then be carried right through Qatari society, as the recent shocking revelations about the treatment of construction workers there demands.”

ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) general secretary Sharan Burrow stated: “The exposure of the abuses of workers in Qatar has put nations and companies on notice. International pressure is growing, and companies which fail to take responsibility for workers’ rights and follow global rules risk reputational damage.”

She added: “The ITUC global poll of the general public in 13 countries representing half the worlds’ population found that 91 percent of people think that international companies should be subject to international rules for the working conditions of employees, no matter which country the workers are in. People are concerned about how companies treat their workers, and expect companies to act responsibility and meet international standards.”

Oneworld is the world’s third biggest airline alliance. Its members are Airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian and S7 Airlines.

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