"Being cabin crew is not just a job but a way of life." For most airlines, the phrase is standard corporate jargon. At Qatar Airways, the source of this quote, officials seem to mean it -- and not necessarily in a good way.
Qatar Airways stands accused of maintaining heavy-handed hiring contracts with its female employees. The documents reportedly include specific regulations outlining the company's need to pre-approve of a marriage and its "right" to fire female workers who become pregnant.
Quotes from the airline's standard hiring contracts for women were published by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in a press release Tuesday.
One clause reads: "You are required to obtain prior permission from the company, in case you wish to change your marital status and get married." Another states:
The employee shall notify the employer in case of pregnancy from the date of her knowledge of its occurrence. The employer shall have the right to terminate the contract of employment from the date of notification of the pregnancy. Failure of employee to notify the employer or the concealment of the occurrence shall be considered a breach of contract.
Union officials say they have more than just questionable contracts, though.
“We have stories from workers that show they are one of the worst airlines in history and that women are at risk of being stalked, are subject to curfews in their accommodation and that there are attempts to bribe workers who will report other workers who are on duty," Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, elaborated to Al Arabiya English in an interview Wednesday.
Reached for comment by The Huffington Post, Qatar Airways' senior corporate communications manager said the airline would issue a statement at a later date, citing the time difference between Qatar and the United States. This article will be updated at that time.
For comparison, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), a union representing flight attendants at American Airlines, requires attendants notify the company of a pregnancy within 14 days of becoming aware. Afterward, based on a doctor's recommendations, attendants have the option of continuing to fly until they are 28 weeks pregnant.
Qatar Airways employs 28,000 people worldwide, 16,000 of whom are considered airline employees. However, employees are prohibited from unionizing and striking, a practice the company CEO Akbar Al Baker defended in an earlier interview with Arabian Industry.
“If you did not have unions you wouldn't have this jobless problem in the Western world," Al Baker told the paper. "It is caused by unions making companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient.”