Unions accuse Qatar Airways of sex discrimination

International labor unions accuse the Qatari government of turning a blind eye on Qatar Airways’ alleged offences

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Two global union organizations on Thursday submitted a case against Qatar to the International Labor Organization (ILO) accusing the Gulf country of allowing its state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, to violate conventions against workplace discrimination.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) accused the Qatari government of allowing Qatar Airways to violate ILO Convention 111, which Qatar signed in 1976.


Both organizations accuse Qatar Airways of workplace sex discrimination and restricting women’s rights, and allege that the Qatari government is in breach of its international obligations by turning a blind eye to these offences.

The case provides evidence that female cabin crew members face gender-based discrimination such as a contractual marriage bar for the first five years of service.

ITF acting General-Secretary Steve Cotton said: “Qatar Airways already has an unenviable reputation for severe employment practices, even among industry professionals, with allegations including harassment and restrictions on visitors and relationships. Its gender discrimination against female cabin crew is equally unacceptable,” according to an ITF press release.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC general-secretary, said: “The corrupt kafala system used in Qatar, including by Qatar Airways, virtually enslaves women and controls their every movement. They live under strict curfews and the smallest details of their lives are controlled by their employers.

In March, after months of scathing reports from labor rights officials, Qatar Airways said controversy over its female cabin crew policy was “not true.”

The airline was blasted last September for forcing its female workers to seek permission from the company when they decide to get married.

In a report released then by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the airline was found to also mandate that women tell a supervisor if they become pregnant.

In February, Qatar Airways came under fire from Norway’s anti-discrimination ombudsman after it posted an advert telling women to wear short skirts to a cabin-crew recruitment day in the capital, Oslo.

In the same advert, men were asked to come wearing “business suits,” according to Norwegian news website The Local.

The advert was later changed to state that both men and women to attend wearing “business wear.”

At the time, Qatar Airways did not respond to a request for comment by Al Arabiya News regarding the advert posted on the Norwegian news website.

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