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Airlines fight turns murkier

|TAP Special| The airlines muddle involving Gulf and Western airlines got murkier, with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing more than 25,000 active flight attendants at American Airlines getting the International Labour Organization to issue a report calling on Qatar Airways to remove a clause from its flight attendant contracts that allows the company to terminate members of the flight crew upon becoming pregnant.

“It is fantastic to see the international community finally step in to defend the basic and absolute rights of flight attendants at Qatar Airways,” said Laura Glading, APFA National President. “There is still a great deal of work to do, and APFA isn’t going to stop putting this issue front and center, but this is an encouraging start.”

Earlier this year, APFA called on American Airlines management to work through the Oneworld alliance, of which Qatar Airways is a member, to pressure the company to reform its employment policies.

Qatar Airways has also been accused of accepting billions of dollars in subsidies from its government treasury, which violates the Open Skies agreement in place between Qatar and the US. As a founding member of the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, APFA has used the trade dispute as an opportunity to elevate the issue of workers’ rights at Gulf carriers. The other carriers accused of taking subsidies, Emirates and Etihad Airways of the UAE, also have questionable employment practices.

“I see the two issues as being inextricably linked,” Glading said. “Among the unfair benefits these companies receive from their governments is a ban on unionization. Not only is that a violation of trade law, but it allows companies to implement these types of horrible labor practices without any recourse from workers.”

The Partnership estimates that Qatar’s ban on unionizing amounts to an unfair benefit to the airline of nearly $1 billion.

Members of the APFA Government Affairs team will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow to discuss the issue of subsidies and workers’ rights at Gulf carriers. The team will be asking Senators to sign on to a letter urging the federal government to pursue consultations with Qatar and the UAE to address the dispute and level the playing field.