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 Wednesday 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 be accepted 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.
The following is a typical message from a QA worker received after the ITF press released the pregnancy and marriage prohibitions (www.itfglobal.org/press-area/index.cfm/pressdetail/9558/region/1/section/0/order/1). The sender included proof that they are working for the company, including the current code of conduct for cabin crew:
I am communicating with you to first of all thank you for the press release regarding the violation of aviation workers rights specifically for Qatar airways. I am one of their flight attendants and was surprised to see this in the media since nobody seemed to care about the bad treatment flight attendants in Qatar airways receive, if you asked any of the cabin crew nobody is really happy most of them stay for a short period of time, get sacked or those who stay longer are because they really need a job to support their families back home. (100% of the flight attendants are foreigners, there's no qatari crew at all). I would like to mention that the issues you brought up are not the only ones. To clarify the permission to marry is for both male and females and you have to work for 5 years (previously it was 3) to be able to apply to get married then you might get permission or not. There's no maternity leave so if you are pregnant you are simply sacked, it's not just that the company has to be aware of your pregnancy, but you are immediately fired i've known several colleagues who went through this. All the cabin crew live in company accommodations and cannot move out. There are cameras in every building and security guard watching everything you do, and the only way to go in or out of your accommodation is by swiping your ID card otherwise the doors won't open, this way they can keep track of the exact times when you leave or come in. I believed this is very dangerous specially in case of a fire or something, you don't always have your ID handy. There's a housing department, and they randomly have spotchecks in your apartment, if you have alcohol, cigarettes, pork products, or anything that is not allow by them you are sacked immediately. All the crew have "minimum rest" regulations which mean you have to be at home 12 hours before your pick up for duty, doesn't matter if it's a short or long haul flight, standby, office duty etc you have to be back in your apartment 12 hours before, i think this is the most common reason for being fired. Also you have a curfew to be back in your accommodation every single day since the first day you arrive, for trainees it is 11pm (used to be 10, changed a couple months ago), and after training it is 4am (before was 3:30), this includes on your days off, meaning you can ever stay outside with friends or anything. You can only have visitors until 10pm in your accommodation this can include family. If you want your family member only 1 parent or sibling of the same sex can stay with you maximum 2 times a year for maximum 2 weeks each time. Many people get sacked daily for many stupid reasons such as posting a picture with uniform, from a flight, your accommodation, having tattoos, posting pictures on your Facebook with drinks, cigarettes, know several girls who got fired for having pictures on bikini while at the beach, and for many other reasons you will never believe. The biggest problem is there are no workers rights in this country so there's nowhere to complain, if you don't like anything you simply get sacked and if that happens before completing 2 years with the company you have to pay a bond which many cannot afford. And the only way to leave the country is by the company authorizing an exit permit, so you are basically trapped, many employees who have been in trouble for stupid reasons and are suspended from flying are trapped in Doha for even months with no salary waiting for clearance by the airline, payment f your bond etc There's many other things I could mention, not even sure why I am writing this e-mail but feel the need to do it since I am only expressing what thousands feel and we've never had a voice, Qatar airways the whole life of the employees, and nobody knows what to expect until they arrive here they don't mention this things during the recruitment process. Thank you again for calling for action and so happy some of the media were able to publish it.
The Skytrax agency’s five star rating for Qatar Airways has been loudly promoted by oneworld (see Qatar Airways to join oneworld on 30 October 2013 and oneworld now holds five 'best alliance' titles with latest Skytrax award, plus other press releases at www.oneworld.com/news-information/oneworldnews)
ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho today sent the following letter to the Skytrax agency:
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents trade unions in major airlines worldwide, is gravely concerned at Qatar Airways’ full accession to the oneworld alliance on Wednesday 30 October 2013. I understand that specifically the airline’s five-star rating by Skytrax has played an important role in making this development possible.
The ITF’s concerns arise from Qatar Airways’ treatment of its workforce. I believe these are serious issues that could bring into question the image, reputation and industrial practices of the entire oneworld alliance. Given these concerns, which I detail below, I would like to suggest that your ratings system may be being employed to undermine the highest standards for quality airlines.
The ITF’s concerns are around basic workers’ rights, women’s rights and severe employment practices that intrude unnecessarily on employee’s lives outside work, as follows:
1. In Qatar trade unions are highly restricted and migrant workers face severe, discriminatory policies and practices that violate their fundamental human and labour rights. Ninety-four per cent of Qatari employees are non-nationals. Migrant workers are vital to the success of the airline. However they cannot exercise their internationally-recognised basic rights as workers – including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining – that are enshrined in the core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). This is the case despite the fact that these rights apply in their home countries, and indeed in almost all the nations whose airlines compete with Qatar Airways.
2. You may also have read articles recently in the press highlighting the restriction of women’s rights. For example, a standard Qatar Airways contract – covering thousands of the airline’s female workers, demands that the employee “obtain prior permission from the company, in case you wish to change your marital status and get married.” These contracts also state that the company can terminate the contract of employment from the date of notification of a pregnancy; failing to notify the employer or concealing a pregnancy is a breach of contract.
3. In addition to these demands, Qatar Airways has an unenviable reputation for severe employment practices amongst industry professionals. Allegations of harsh treatment and overbearing scrutiny are commonplace. Rigid curfews and restrictions on visitors and relationships are in place, backed up with swipe-in door keys and CCTV in the living accommodation provided to cabin crew.
Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al-Bakr has made no effort to dispel the airline’s anti-worker image in the public media – he appears to wish to promote the practices elsewhere. Recently he stated “if you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the Western world”. These attitudes appear symptomatic of those abuses that have emerged – in the guise of human mistreatment and lives lost – during the Qatari preparations for the football world cup in 2022. Commerces that care about their public image , and responsible companies generally, can no longer justify turning a turn a blind eye to the unacceptable treatment of workers in Qatar.
That treatment is exacerbated by Qatar’s refusal to sign widely adopted conventions of the United Nations’ International Labour Organization or to abide by the principle of freedom of association proclaimed in the United nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We would recommend that compliance with such core conventions should be part of any exercise examining the quality of a national flag carrier.
I am sure you will see that the ITF is understandably concerned about the negative impact of such a rogue element within the family of five-star airlines, and indeed that Skytrax, a reputable airline quality agency, would be associated with granting it that status. I would therefore ask you to give serious consideration to the plight of Qatar Airways workers. The ITF would like formally to request that you urge the company to reconsider its unacceptable attitude towards its employees and to change its working practices in order to redress the problems we raise in the three areas outlined above; should the airline refuse to do so, it would certainly be calling into question its five-star rating. Thank you for your attention. I will be monitoring the situation, look forward to receiving any comments, and if you deem it helpful, am ready to meet you at your convenience to discuss this important matter,
Qatar Airways’ current code of conduct for cabin crew
CHAPTER 5: GENERAL CODE OF CONDUCT 5.1 CABIN CREW COMMUNICATION The Cabin Crew are encouraged to freely communicate with any member of the Cabin Crew management team.
It is the responsibility of the management as well as the Cabin Crew to share important information with each other. The Management sends out information to Cabin Crew in the form of letter/ notices. The Cabin Crew, via the Cabin Service Director or Cabin Senior are required to provide in-flight and post flight information to the Management through the Voyage Reports.
Additionally, any major incident/s that may occur during or after a flight at any outstation, Cabin Service Directors and Cabin Seniors are expected to immediately communicate with Cabin Crew Management (Performance / Cabin Crew Welfare Offices) via SMS/ email / telephone or fax in conjunction with a voyage report.
The Cabin Crew Welfare Office is the first point of contact between the Cabin Crew and management in case of any doubt or query. All administrative and welfare issues are dealt with by the Welfare Office on a one to one basis.
Any issues that are deemed necessary to be brought to the attention of the management must be in writing, and the sender should be easily identifiable. Anonymous letters will not be taken into consideration.
Cabin Crew are free to approach any of the management team members to discuss a problem. However, Crew are encouraged to follow the chain of command, when dealing with the office for any issues.
5.2 PROTECTION OF THE COMPANY’S CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION AND BUSINESS The Company has a reputation for conducting its business in a responsible and ethical manner. Cabin Crew are expected to protect such confidential information and in your actions demonstrate respect for the Company’s corporate reputation, and do nothing that will undermine the Company’s business. Information pertaining to the Company must never be disclosed to or discussed with any person outside of Qatar Airways. It is also not permitted to discuss or disclose to any person, telephone numbers, addresses, rosters, whereabouts or any other information regarding fellow Crew.
5.3 RESTRICTIONS WHILE IN UNIFORM Whenever in uniform, Cabin Crew behavior must be exemplary. 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 Bldg or at any airport is strictly prohibited.
5.4 DROP OFF AND PICK UP FROM QATAR AIRWAYS PREMISES Female Cabin Crew using non-QR 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.
5.5 PARKING Cabin Crew visiting the “Qatar Airways Tower” at any time are required to park their vehicles in the specially designated Staff Car Park. Except for Performance Officers/ Line Trainers/ Cabin Service Directors/Cabin Seniors on duty who are allowed to park on a short term basis, all other Cabin Crew are not permitted to park their vehicles inside the technical building compound, but can park across the road from the technical building and use the available QR Transport Service bus to take you from this parking area to the technical building. If the bus is not available, call the transport service to provide a bus for transfer.
5.6 GRATUITIES AND GIFTS TO CREW Terms and conditions of employment in the Company do not allow Crew to receive gratuities/gifts and/or tips. The receiving of gratuities/gifts and/or tips, of any sort, is considered an offence under the provisions of the Company’s disciplinary policies and procedures. The only exception is in the case of complimentary gifts (such as a diary or a pen) bearing a logo or writing which identifies it as sales promotional material.
Any gratuities or gifts offered to the Crew, should be politely refused without offending the giver and the Company policy regarding this matter must be explained properly.
5.7 QATAR AIRWAYS INFORMATION: All Cabin Crew and QR employees are required to follow and abide by the NON – DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT which was signed and kept in their personal file.
5.7.1 Publicity Cabin Crew are not allowed to make any official statement/s in public or to the media. This can only be done by an authorized spokesperson of the Company. Any person seeking information about the Company or it’s affairs must be referred to Cabin Crew Senior Management or to the Corporate Communications Department.
5.7.2 Social Networking/ Public Websites Cabin Crew are not allowed to use any of the available social networking and/or public websites (Youtube / Facebook/ Twitter/ Friendster/ Myspace / Flickr etc) to share photos, comments, blogs, videos that are in anyway related to and/or about Qatar Airways and QR subsidiaries unless officially released and authorized by Qatar Airways.
5.7.3 Speaking Engagements/Press Releases If invited to speak at courses, seminars or meetings, appearances on radio or television, or write articles for books or the press, approval must be obtained from the Management, before accepting such invitations. If it relates in any way to the Company and/or its business. when requested, subject and content of press release/ speech should be provided sufficiently in advance for the Company to give its approval.
5.8 FAMILY BUSINESS Should a Cabin Crew’s family member/s or relative/s have any business dealings with the Company, this should be brought to the notice of the management at the earliest. If there is any doubt in this regard, it should be discussed with Cabin Crew- Senior Management Officers.
5.9 COPYRIGHT 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.
5.10 WITNESS TO PASSENGER COMPLAINTS 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.
5.11 COMPANY TIME AND EXCLUSIVITY OF SERVICES Once employed by Qatar Airways, Cabin Crew must exclusively dedicate their time towards the fulfillment of their job function.
Involvement in any other employment or business – directly or indirectly – will amount to conflict of interest. Written approval must be obtained from the Company, in case a Crew wishes to join or become part of any other Company or business for financial or non-financial reasons
5.12 PERSONAL PROPERTY Crew are solely responsible for their own personal property and must safeguard these by ensuring that they are kept in a secure place. The Company will not accept responsibility for any loss or damage of personal belongings/ property.
5.13 COMPANY PROPERTY Creware responsible for any Company equipment or documents issued while in the Company’s employment. At the end of employment with Qatar Airways, or at any other time in accordance with instructions given to you by the Company, all equipment, correspondence, manuals, records, notes, reports and any other documents along with any electronic or paper copies thereof and any other property belonging to the Company (including but not limited to keys and passes) which are in your possession or under your control, must be returned to the Company.
Also, Company items or property must not be taken out of its location or assigned stowage area. Random security checks will be conducted to ensure that this is adhered to. If found in breach of this regulation, strict disciplinary action may be taken. The Crew Layover hotel room is an extension of Company premises therefore its facilities and items must not be taken out of its area. If found in breach of this regulation, strict disciplinary action may be taken.
5.14 Prohibited Items: Qatar Airways prohibits the importation, and/or possession of narcotics, alcoholic beverages, pork, pork products and pornographic materials. The consumption and/or use of any of these items within company premises is likewise prohibited. Violation to this policy will be dealt with strict disciplinary action.
5.14.1 Alcohol/ Illegal Drugs/Narcotics Possession of narcotics, other illegal drugs & substances, alcoholic beverages and/or participation in the use/ consumption of illegal drugs, narcotics, substances & alcoholic beverages in Company assigned accommodation, is STRICTLY prohibited. Qatar Airways Security Department is fully empowered to perform random alcohol and drug testing at anytime on any Qatar Airways employee when entering and exiting any Qatar Airways premises.
Qatar Airways premises means but is not limited to: premises, accommodations, facilities, car parks, airports, vehicles and aircraft belonging to or used by Qatar Airways.
This is not restricted to the State of Qatar it includes all countries where Qatar Airways has a presence.
5.14.2 Breathalysers Random breathalyser checks may be conducted at any time by the Security department. This is done in order to ascertain the presence and level of alcohol in the system. If tested positive, strict disciplinary action, as deemed necessary by Management, may be taken.
5.14.3 Drugs/ Illegal Substances Test: The company has the right to ask Cabin Crew to undergo a drug test at any time so as to determine the presence of illegal drugs and/or substances in their system. If tested positive, strict disciplinary action, as deemed necessary by Management, may be taken.
5.15 CREW LAYOVER PROCEDURES While on layover, Crewmembers must check–in at the designated hotel, before proceeding to meet friends and family. The Crewmember must provide the operating CSD/CS of the flight, the local contact number, if staying or going out with, a family member or friend.
While commuting between the hotel and private residences/areas, the Qatar Airways Uniform must NOT be worn. Crew are not permitted to travel outside the city limits of the station they have operated to, under any circumstances, unless instructed by the Company Management.
At Layover Stations: It is mandatory for Crew members to comply with minimum rest requirements as required by regulatory authorities. (Reference- OM Part A Chapter 7 page 19.)
5.16 REST PERIOD REGULATIONS: Cabin Crew Management team is not here to manage your lifestyle but individual responsibility must be exercised to ensure you are well rested prior to a duty period.
Duty includes if/when you are on (SBY) standby, attending training and/or scheduled for a flight. A minimum of 12 hours of rest prior to a duty period is mandatory.
During the AB-initio training period: Regardless of the following day’s rostered duty, all participants must be in company assigned accommodation by 2300 Hours every day including Fridays.
Participants are not allowed to accept visitors of the opposite sex in company assigned accommodation at anytime throughout the Ab-initio training period.
Staying overnight, outside of company assigned accommodation, regardless whether you are on duty or on day off is strictly prohibited.
Forall Cabin Crew Whilein Base (DOH): It is mandatory for Crew members to be in company assigned accommodations 12 hours prior to pick up time. Cabin Crew are permitted to go out of company accommodation for a maximum period of 90 minutes during the mandatory rest period.
For all Cabin Crew returning from Days Off / Annual Leave: It is mandatory for Crew members to be in company assigned accommodations 12 hours prior to reporting time.
Duty includes if/when on standby/ attending training or scheduled for a flight.
On or before Days off, you must ensure that you return to your company assigned accommodation not later than 0400H
Staying overnight, outside of company assigned accommodation, regardless whether you are on duty or on day off is strictly prohibited.
At Layover Stations:
It is mandatory for Crew members to comply with minimum rest requirements as required by regulatory authorities. (Reference- OM Part A Chapter 7 page 19.)
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson.
Direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260. Email: email@example.com
International Transport Workers' Federation - ITF: HEAD OFFICE ITF House, 49 - 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871