Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker – infamously one of the worst bosses in the world – was exposed recently by the transport workers’ international, the ITF, for firing pregnant cabin crew. He claims this is “bullshit”.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has once again thrown down the gauntlet to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, and challenged him to prove that the airline is reforming its practices.

The ITF has repeatedly exposed Qatar Airways’ outdated and autocratic working conditions. Along with the ITUC it has also taken a case against the state of Qatar to the International Labour Organization. This includes evidence that female cabin crew members face gender-based discrimination such as a contractual marriage bar for the first five years of service and a provision allowing the company to terminate employment upon a crew member (compulsorily) reporting a pregnancy.

Faced with continuing international public criticism the airline’s CEO has lashed out on CNN. Asked if cabin crew have to ask permission to marry and get pregnant he said this was “a load of bullshit” and claimed that “ILO inspectors” had found those “rumours” to be “unsubstantiated and just created to paint a bad picture on the Gulf carriers”.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “We’ve repeatedly laid out our proof, now let Mr Al Baker do the same. We will be delighted if the airline has finally listened to us and its own workers and is removing the offending contract obligations. We’ve written to Al Baker telling him so and promising that we’d publicly welcome such a move, if implemented.”

He continued: “Our ILO case against Qatar certainly seems to have concentrated attention there. You can almost hear the creak of goalposts being shifted in an attempt to evade our charges. But change has to be real, not cosmetic – not just adding a word to a contract here, removing one there.

“Mr Al Baker’s claim that ILO staff are pre-judging their organisation’s own painstaking and respected processes, and leaking Qatar’s innocence of the charges against it, is frankly beyond belief. The ILO doesn’t work that way.”

He concluded: “We do absolve him of involvement in the even more unbelievable claim given out by Qatar Day.com and Arabian Business.com that ‘ITF inspectors’ have visited Qatar and are proclaiming its innocence. That particular enormous inaccuracy can be laid at the publications’ doors alone.”


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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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