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.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.

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.”

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Posted by: Steven

Workers rights - there are none anywhere in the Gulf and I have been here over 20 years. You are still merely a 'temporary expatriate worker' whether 'Management' or 'Blue' collar - it does not matter to our hosts!

Posted by: Steven

To Abu Zahra - I wasn't complaining, just stating facts.
There are many people outside these waters (who read these on-line digestives) and even those that live in their 'Dubai Bubble' think they live in Utopia - it is not, I know it, and you know it, but it is, as your comments to me originally intimated, better than where there ARE workers rights and Unions to protect them. God forbid If I have ever to work in Europe again - it's dying a very slow death - most of mainland Europe especially, for this very precise reason

Posted by: Abu Zahra

Oh my God!!! You lived in the Gulf for 20 years as a temporary worker!! What prevented you from calling it a day and leave the Gulf to countries where unions and rights are protected. Sounds you don't want others to come to Gulf and at the same time have good time here.

Posted by: Ronald

When does these geezer ever find time to run an airline, he appears to be constantly blabbing in the media on a subject he either doesn't understand or directly serves his position as a paid servant of the royal family, nominally running their airline. Overexposure in the media will be his downfall, for it is coming. Explaining away the airport delay should occupy every waking moment, not throwing smoke bombs to get the world off the real story.

Posted by: Donald

I lived in GCC countries for five years, including Qatar. I agree with Sam.

Posted by: Billy

I think Mr Al Baker has once again over stepped the mark and shown himself to be ignorant of the facts that exist in favour of an argument that serves his cause. The Labour Law in Qatar does offer a minimal level of protection but the opportunity for the everyday person to seek that protection is removed as the cost of any form of litigation is massive. Furthermore the timescales are so long that residency cancellation and forced exit happen way before even the very first court hearing could ever possibly happen. Police .....don't even go there. Not an option. Qatar can rightly position itself as a growing, economic power but it is based on natural resources and like all other GCC states the exploitation of cheap labour. It can never be seen as a protector of human rights and a defender of the common man. UN based in Doha? Not in a million years!

Posted by: Thoughtful

Qatari, you have more than a chip on your shoulder. Methinks you have the entire quarry!

Posted by: Qatari

Its called the United "Nations", just like the "World" Cup. Qatar has the exact right to host any international organization. If it is an organization that includes Qatar then Qatar has the full right of hosting it just like any nation that fulfills the requirements. If you don't like it then call it Human Rights [as if] Nations and host it in your backyard if you want so. Your comment shows how "democratic" you people really are.

Posted by: leo50

what a crock! If it was up to people like Al Baker there would still be children in coal mines and forced labour. To generalise like he has done is absurd in this day and age. It is so apparent that lack of legislation and enforcement is what causes issues such as we have experienced in Bangladesh recently.

Posted by: Qatari

That would be exactly what American and European companies would do, history has proven that.

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