Global transport unions file complaint against Qatar Airways to UN body

ITF and ITUC filed a case with the International Labour Organisation accusing the airline of violating foreign workers' rights

Global union bodies the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have together filed a formal complaint against Qatar Airways at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), accusing the Gulf-based airline of violating the rights of its foreign workers.

An AFP report quoted union spokesperson Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez as saying: “We’re urging the ILO to make the recommendations necessary to bring the Qatar government into compliance with its international commitments as soon as possible and end the disgraceful measures.”

The ILO has constantly urged Qatar to change its labour practices, including removing restrictions on forming unions and striking.

According to the AFP report, Qatar Airways staff are forced to live in company compounds, under surveillance, with curfews. They are also banned from marrying during their first five years at the company and must obtain permission from the airline thereafter.

“Any infringement of the draconian regulations imposed on them is likely to result in sacking and deportation,” Rodriguez told AFP.

 “Compared to the one-and-a-half million migrant workers in Qatar, there are a small number of aviation workers, around 20,000. They might have better salaries, they might have neat and tidy uniforms, but that does not mean they don’t suffer,” he added.

The International Labour Organisation is a United Nations body. It does not have the power to force countries to change its laws, but it can exert indirect pressure.

In a release, the ITF and ITUC confirmed the case had been filed with the ILO on Thursday June 5.

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.”

He continued: “We urge the ILO to act on our representation and make the recommendations necessary to bring the Qatar government into compliance with its international commitments as soon as possible.”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: "Qatar is on trial – over its national airline, over kafala, over the World Cup. The truth will out, and we're going to continue making sure it does. Change has to happen, and until it does the rulers of Qatar and Qatar Airways can be sure that we won't go away."

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