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Ultimatum to female pilots: terminate pregnancy or resign

July 1, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A shocking claim that women pilots are being given an ultimatum – “terminate your pregnancy or your employment” – has rocked a committee looking into the terms on which pilots are hired.

The issue surfaced in Ireland, a country which some global companies use as a tax haven.

President of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA), Captain Evan Cullen, has claimed Irish-registered airlines are confronting female pilots with a stark choice.

The pilots were being forbidden to get pregnant, Cullen told an Irish parliamentary investigation into bogus self-employment.

Those who did fall pregnant were told: “You have a choice, you terminate your employment or you terminate your pregnancy”.

Cullen told the Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection that about half the pilots working in Irish-registered airlines were hired as “self-employed” contractors, the Irish Times reported.

When Cullen was asked if Ryanair employed contract pilots, the chairman of the investigating committee, John Curran, intervened and said no individual or company should be named.

Cullen responded that “all Irish airlines” were involved in hiring contract pilots, with the proportion of pilots “in this kind of precarious employment” ranging from 5% right through to 100%.

Not all of the airlines were usually associated with Ireland, he added. Some set up companies and registered them in Ireland to take advantage of Irish labour law.

Cullen warned of safety implications. He said two academic studies – one from the University of Ghent and the other from the London School of Economics – had shown pilots’ decision-making was affected by the security of their own position.

Flight deck

Apart from the intimidation involved in an ultimatum over pregnancy, the issue is a hot one in Ireland, where the constitution for decades prohibited termination of pregnancy unless there was a serious risk to the life of the mother.

In May 2018, after some bitter campaigning, a referendum was passed by 66.4% of voters to remove the constitutional ban on abortion. It was signed in to law last September.

Written by Peter Needham

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