Qatar Airways will no longer sack cabin crew who become pregnant or marry after union campaign.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker - considered by many to by the "worst boss in the world".

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker – considered by many to be the “worst boss in the world”.

Transport workers and their international union the ITF are celebrating the first victory for staff rights at Qatar Airways after the airline admitted that it has removed its contractual pregnancy and marriage prohibitions. These demanded that anyone becoming pregnant had to notify management, at which point she would be likely to lose her job, and forbade marriage for five years (even after that time permission had to be sought to marry).

The existence of the two bans was first made public by the ITF, and their removal has been a key demand of its campaign for action by Qatar Airways. The airline was forced to review its working practices following that exposure and their inclusion in a complaint made by the ITF and ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 2014. That complaint was upheld by the ILO in June 2015 in a judgment that found the airline guilty of systemic workplace sex discrimination – especially over the marriage and pregnancy prohibitions. Qatar Airways has now admitted to Agence France Presse that it has changed the offending policy.

The ITF welcomed the changes and, working closely with Qatar Airways workers, will continue to campaign for further change and respect for workers’ rights at the airline.

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “Since we first made these rules public in September 2013 we have made clear that they had to go. By exposing them we unleashed a torrent of stories of what it is like to work for the airline. These show that it still has far to go and much to learn about treating its personnel as human beings, but, under pressure, it has made some progress. We congratulate everyone, including those who bravely and secretly spoke to us from inside the airline, those in trade unions, in the wider aviation industry and in the media who helped us decry these abuses and force the airline into this action.”

He added: “We launched our continuing campaign for change and trade union protection at QR two years ago, and the ILO complaint was a significant step forward in that struggle. We can see today how well it helped focus the minds of Qatar’s rulers and of its national airline!”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin added: “Qatar Airways has been shamed into action, and that’s a tremendous advance. No amount of hiding behind ‘best airline’ awards has kept the truth about how staff are treated from emerging. We, along with everyone who works for the airline, hope that they will now address what many of those workers call the ‘climate of fear’ at QR. There’s much to be done but the airline has made one step towards it.”

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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