Qatar Airways agrees to change female worker policy

An investigation into the employment practices at Qatar Airways that began after complaints that pregnant cabin stewards faced dismissal recently ended with the airline vowing to end the practice.

“The latest report of our governing body on this matter indicated that the procedure has been closed,” Hans von Rohland, of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which initiated the probe, told the Gulf News Journal in an email from Geneva.

After the year-long investigation, the ILO issued a report criticizing the company for firing pregnant employees, but also for prohibiting female workers from being dropped off or picked up at work by any male other than a close family member, and barring women from marrying in the first five years of their employment.

Qatar Airways now says it will change its employment practices relating to women, including finding alternative work for those in late-state pregnancy.

Women make up 80 percent of the carrier’s 23,000-strong workforce.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) says it has been calling for similar changes since 2013.

“This is a real victory for Qatar Airways staff, and there are more victories to be won,” Gabriel Mocho, ITF Civil Aviation secretary, told the online magazine Equal Times. “Our campaign for justice at the airline continues, now strengthened by this significant step forward. This also puts other airlines on notice that any similar policies will not be tolerated, although it has been Qatar Airways that has been the worst offender.”

U.S. labor organizations have been protesting the airline’s employment practices since direct flights between Doha and Atlanta were announced earlier this year.

The Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere (AWARE), a nonprofit organization advocating for international workers' rights, asked Georgia residents and politicians to reconsider traveling with the airline.
The group alleges that Qatar Airways has abused its employees while they work under the watchful eye of the Qatari government.

“In Doha, the airline mandates that its employees live in company housing with strict curfews, where their personal lives are monitored, and bans workers from marrying without its permission,” the organization said.

In its report, the ILO said it understands that health and safety concerns make it mandatory that workers let the company know if they become pregnant.

“It considers, however, that protective measures should include action taken to ensure that a woman worker does not lose her job during pregnancy and that maternity is not a source of discrimination in employment and occupation,” the report said.

The Qatari government said it is company policy that the staff of Qatar Airways responsible for the well-being of the workforce diligently search for alternative jobs on the ground for pregnant cabin crew members.