Global union hits Qatar Airways with UN complaint

Global union hits Qatar Airways with UN complaint
Updated 05 June 2014

Global union hits Qatar Airways with UN complaint

Global union hits Qatar Airways with UN complaint

GENEVA: A global union said it had filed a formal complaint at a UN body against Qatar Airways, accusing it of breaching the rights of its almost entirely foreign staff.
Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez of the International Transport Federation said the complaint was lodged with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The union body wants the UN labor agency to condemn the airline for violating global rules on workers’ rights, as well as domestic regulations.
“We’re urging the ILO to make the recommendations necessary to bring the Qatar government into compliance with its international commitments as soon as possible and end the disgraceful measures,” Rodriguez said.
Qatar is already under pressure over the treatment of migrant construction workers, an enduring issue given fresh impetus as the emirate prepares to host football’s 2022 World Cup.
In April, the ILO urged Qatar to remove a host of restrictions on forming unions and striking, and to protect workers from discrimination.
The ILO cannot force countries to fall into line, but its criticism has moral weight.
Beyond the dearth of union rights, Rodriguez said, Qatar Airways staff must live in company compounds, under surveillance, with curfews.
They are banned from marrying during their first five years at the company and must obtain its permission thereafter.
Becoming pregnant is grounds for immediate dismissal, as is failing to inform the airline about a pregnancy.
Staff face regular medical checks, including AIDS tests.
“Any infringement of the draconian regulations imposed on them is likely to result in sacking and deportation,” Rodriguez said on the sidelines of the ILO’s annual congress.
He said the rules were rarely made clear to would-be staff before they had actually joined, and that they were bound by gagging clauses thereafter.
“Compared to the one-and-a-half million migrant workers in Qatar, there are a small number of aviation workers, around 20,000. They might have better salaries, they might have neat and tidy uniforms, but that does not mean they don’t suffer,” he added.
Qatar Airways is one of the world’s fastest-growing carriers.
Over 90 percent of its staff is foreign, reflecting the overall proportion of migrant workers in the Qatari economy.
Qatar’s “kafala” visa-sponsorship system handcuffs foreigners to their local employer.
If staff quit Qatar Airways before serving two years, they must repay a bond to the company in order to get an exit visa, said Rodriguez.