Unions to blame for jobless problems – Al Baker

Qatar Airways CEO says most western politicians would love to have Qatar’s labour system
Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.
By Shane McGinley
Fri 10 May 2013 11:33 AM

The western world would not be faced with the stagnant growth and unemployment problems if it did not have trade unions, the CEO of Qatar Airways.

Akbar Al Baker made the comments in retaliation to recent criticisms of the Gulf state’s labour policies by international trade union bodies.

“If you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the western world… It is caused by unions making companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient,” Akbar Al Baker told Arabian Business.

“If you go and ask the politicians in most of the countries in the western world they would love to have the system we have: where the workers have rights through the law but they do not have rights through striking and undermining successful institutions that provide jobs to their knees,” he added.

Al Baker revealed that he is fan of recently deceased former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – who infamously had her own bitter battles with British trade unions – and added that a prominent British Labour leader, who he refused to name, also agreed with his stance.

“I was talking to a politician, a very prominent politician from the Labour and he mentioned to me that he wish that the unions were not allowed… What more do you want?

Last month, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which represents around 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries, hit out at Qatar’s offer to move the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) from Montreal to Doha, citing its banning of trade unions as a negative factor.

The headquarters of the ICAO has been resident in the Canadian city of Montreal since 1946 and authorities in Doha have offered to build the organisation a new headquarters when its 20 year lease comes up for renewal in 2016.

“The UN cannot bend to the power of the Riyal at a time when ordinary Qataris’ fights for rights are met with massive repression. It’s doubly outrageous when thousands of staff at Qatar Airways are denied the fundamental right to union membership enshrined by the UN,” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said in a statement.

“This is all excuses,” Al Baker said of the ITF’s comments. “There are many countries in the world where unions are not allowed and they have UN bodies in those countries. Workers have absolute rights in our country.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has also been a regular critic of Qatar’s labour policies and also recently weighted in on the issue.

“No foreign employee, whether a cleaner or a football star, is allowed to quit Qatar unless their employer allows them to,” ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said on the proposal to move the ICAO from Montreal to Doha.

Again, Al Baker rejected these statements outright and saw them as an attempt to stifle the country’s progress.

“This is all rubbish… This is just for people who try to block the progress of Arab countries. They try to block Arab countries getting involved in international institutions. I think with us, right to strike does not mean that workers do not have rights.”

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.