The arrival of Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight in Sydney yesterday drew much praise, with Sydney Airport managing director and chief executive Kerrie Mather saying she was “thrilled” to welcome the new carrier.
“Qatar Airways’ new daily service will boost tourism, providing an additional 245,000 seats per year, generating an estimated 3000 jobs and contributing more than AUD 240 million to the Australian economy.”
NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres, was similarly delighted. The new carrier would provide “a valuable increase in aviation capacity from the Middle East and greater connectivity to Sydney and Regional NSW, particularly for travellers flying from the United Kingdom and Europe via Doha”, he said.
Definitely not happy with the airline’s arrival in Sydney was the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) which held a protest at Sydney airport over what it claims is Qatar Airways’ abuse of its workers.
Union activists leafleted the public with pamphlets alleging poor treatment by Qatar Airways of employees, including sacking workers for minor offences and keeping them under constant surveillance.
“Flight crew are flying into Sydney today who are not afforded the same rights or protections as employees here in Australia and who are subject to the most appalling treatment,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon declared.
“Qatar Airways has been found guilty by the United Nations body, the International Labour Organisation, of sacking women employees when they become pregnant.
“Open Skies policies allowing foreign airlines greater access to Australian routes are importing a culture of abuse and exploitation and threatening living standards for aviation workers,” Sheldon said. “It is now up to the Government to ensure Australian standards are upheld for all employees working here.”
The TWU said one worker had told the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which has been campaigning on the issue, about conditions for women: “A colleague and friend of mine had an abortion because she was afraid of losing her job. When even someone just suspects that you might be pregnant, you’re out.”
In further allegations about Qatar Airways, the TWU says:
- Employees deemed to be using too much hair gel, wearing their hat wrongly or having a tattoo can be terminated.
- Employees are kept under constant surveillance including searching accommodation while crew members are on a flight and monitoring mandatory 12-hour resting rule before work.
- Female staff cannot be dropped off or picked up from company premises by a man other than their father, brother or husband.
- Employees are prohibited from joining a union and are forced to sign a confidentiality agreement which stops them reporting abuses, even after they leave.
The union has been campaigning on the issue for some time.
Written by Peter Needham