Qatar Airways chief says ILO has ‘vendetta’ after report citing female discrimination

Rules cited as discriminatory included requirement that employees get permission to change marital status, automatic dismissal of cabin crew members who fell pregnant and surveillance of employees’ private lives.

CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al-Baker, spoke out at the Paris Air Show this week.  AFP
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Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker on Tuesday accused the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of having a “vendetta” against Qatar and its state carrier after the UN agency called for it to stop discriminating against women staff.

The ILO published a report on Saturday detailing its recommendations to Qatar on how the airline should change its employment rules in order to end discrimination. The report was triggered by complaints from global workers’ rights movements, the ILO said.

Rules cited as discriminatory included the requirement that employees get permission to change their marital status, the automatic dismissal of cabin crew members who fell pregnant and surveillance of the employees’ private lives.

“I don’t give a damn about the ILO - I am there to run a successful airline,” Mr Al Baker told Reuters at an aviation show in Paris when asked about the ILO ruling.

“This is evidence of a vendetta they have against Qatar Airways and my country. My country has responded to the ILO accusations in a very robust way. We clarified the clauses in our contract.”

The ILO report said Qatar justified Qatar Airways’ dismissal of pregnant women by citing expecting mothers’ apparent lack of physical fitness to fly and inability to meet the job requirements.

The report also said that Qatar Airways had introduced new employee contracts in December 2014 that no longer state that permission is required for a change in marital status.

Eighty per cent of Qatar Airways’ 9,000 cabin crew workforce are women, the ILO said in its report, citing the Qatari government.

“Protective measures should include action taken to ensure that a woman worker does not lose her job during pregnancy and that maternity is not a source of discrimination,” the ILO said.

A spokesman for the Qatar government was immediately unavailable for comment.

Qatar has been repeatedly criticised for its treatment of its labour force as the country steps up construction ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

In May, the government announced plans for labour reforms but did not lay down a framework or timetable for the changes.

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