Union wants to oust Qatar Airways

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The head of the labour organization representing many airline employees in Norway, Parat, is calling on Norwegian authorities to revoke Qatar Airways’ right to operate flights from Norway because of the way it treats its employees. Vegar Einan claimed the airline “systematically undermines the rights of its workers.”

Qatar Airways, shown here taking off from Oslo's main airport at Gardermoen, should be banned from serving Norway because its working conditions violate human rights, claims Norwegian labour union Parat. PHOTO Oslo Lufthavn AS/Espen Solli

Qatar Airways, shown here taking off from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, should be banned from serving Norway because its working conditions violate human rights, claims Norwegian labour union Parat. PHOTO Oslo Lufthavn AS/Espen Solli

Einan, who earlier has been part of legal challenges against RyanAir’s working conditions, now thinks Qatar Airways should be prevented from serving the Norwegian market. While it ranks as one of the world’s top airlines regarding passenger service and comfort on board, a new book written by Norwegian journalist Pål Vegard Hagesæther reveals strict rules governing the private lives of Qatar Airways cabin crews.

Female flight attendants, for example, will be fired if they become pregnant because the airline claims it has no “appropriate” jobs to offer them on the ground. Qatar Airways employees are not allowed to be members of any labour organization, there are no employee representatives appointed to share any concerns with management, and all employees must live in the company’s apartments and be home between the hours of 4am and 7am, even if they’re not scheduled to work the next day. Visitors are only allowed in the company apartments between 7am and 10pm and the only overnight guests allowed are close family or colleagues of the same sex.

Hagesæther’s book, entitled Fritt fall (Freefall), also said that employees are required to sign three-year contracts and are not allowed to marry, have children or divorce during that period. Employees can apply for permission to marry after working at the airline for at least five years. While in uniform, Qatar Airways employees are forbidden from associating with persons of the opposite sex.

‘No reason to complain’
Qatar Airways has mostly declined comment on the book but newspaper Aftenposten reported that its chief executive, Akvar Al Baker, has previously stressed that all employees are informed of Qatar Airways’ work rules when they apply for a job. “When they have accepted the conditions, they have no reason to complain,” Aftenposten cited him as saying.

The airline’s work rules violate most Norwegian labour agreements, so Einan of Parat is demanding that Norwegian authorities react. “We will demand that Norway revoke Qatar Airways’ right to operate routes in Norway, at the latest when its current agreement is up for renewal,” Einan told Aftenposten. He said Parat was sending its demands to the state Transport Ministry.

A state secretary in the Transport Ministry said that Norwegian authorities don’t routinely evaluate working conditions at airlines serving Norway before landing rights and concessions are granted. Einan showed no sigh of giving up.

“We see that Qatar Airways doesn’t only operate exclusive flights, but operates with working conditions that violate nearly every human right,” he said. “Norway should be the first to address this situation, and send a clear signal that will wake up others and show that we don’t accept such conditions.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund