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Unions put Qatar in the dock at UN body

5 June 2014

Unions put Qatar in the dock at UN body

Global union organisations the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) today submitted a case against the state of Qatar to the ILO (International Labour Organization) in Geneva. The case – delivered this morning to the United Nations organisation – accuses Qatar of allowing its state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, to violate ILO Convention 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), which Qatar signed as long ago as 1976.

The ITF and ITUC accuse Qatar Airways (QR) of workplace sex discrimination and restricting women’s rights, and allege that the Qatari government is in breach of its international obligations by turning a blind eye to these offences. The two organisations have provided evidence that female cabin crew members face gender-based discrimination such as a contractual marriage bar for the first five years of service and a provision allowing the company to terminate employment upon a crew member (compulsorily) reporting a pregnancy. They argue that the government of Qatar also fails to enforce the legal protections that currently do exist in its constitution, Law 14 of 2004 (the Labour Law) and Law 11 of 2004 (the Penal Code).

The ITF has repeatedly exposed discriminatory and wholly unacceptable practices – including curfews, surveillance and arbitrary dismissal – at the airline, where workers repeatedly refer to a climate of fear (see Meanwhile the ITUC has led the way in its challenges to the state of Qatar over its treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, including ahead of the World Cup (see

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 and end the disgraceful discriminatory measures against women workers employed by its national carrier.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “The corrupt kafala system used in Qatar, including by Qatar Airways, virtually enslaves women and controls their every movement. They live under strict curfews and the smallest details of their lives are controlled by their employers. They have no right to join a union to have a collective voice and there appear to be no effective grievance procedures concerning sexual harassment. They are being denied their rights and dignity.”

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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