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Quarter of Qantas crew say they were sexually harassed in past year

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Via Financial Times

A quarter of cabin crew working at Qantas Airways were sexually harassed by a colleague over the past 12 months but only 3 per cent reported it to the airline, according to a group-wide audit. 

A review commissioned by the Australian airline in the wake of the #MeToo movement found that a third of those who did not report sexual harassment said it was because they were able to put a stop to the harassment themselves.

Others said it was because they feared they would be ostracised, not taken seriously or it would damage their careers, according to a summary of the findings circulated to staff on Monday. 

“To be clear, we have zero tolerance for any form of abuse or discrimination in any part of the Qantas Group,” said Rachel Yangoyan, chief operating officer, Australian Airports at Qantas, in an email to cabin crew seen by the Financial Times. “If you experience or witness behaviour that is unacceptable, I encourage you to speak up.” 

Sexual harassment has become a big corporate concern over the past two years owing to the #MeToo movement, which broke the taboo about speaking out about the issue in Hollywood. The trend quickly spread throughout other industries. 

Trade unions representing cabin crew have said sexual harassment is a particular problem in the global airline industry, where some female employees are still forced to wear high heels and make-up.

Staff must often work irregular hours and stay in overseas locations. Women are woefully under represented at executive level: a 2017 survey found that just 3 per cent of airline chief executives were women. 

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Michael Kaine, national secretary of Australia’s Transport Workers Union, said it was alarming that just 3 per cent of Qantas staff reported sexual harassment to the airline.

“This is vastly lower than the national average of 17 per cent and well below the TWU survey of cabin crew across airlines showing 31 per cent reported sexual harassment,” he said.

Qantas said it would take steps to rectify the situation. This would include setting up a confidential independent counselling hotline for cabin crew and pilots, and providing employees with further guidance on how to formally report harassment.

Qantas commissioned Elizabeth Broderick & Co, an independent company, to conduct the survey of 1,650 cabin crew and 750 pilots that examined workplace bullying and sexual harassment.

The probe found one in four cabin crew — both male and female — had experienced sexual harassment from a colleague and about 15 per cent of cabin crew were sexually harassed by a customer in the past 12 months. 

Female pilots were three times as likely as male pilots to be sexually harassed by a colleague, with one in four female pilots reporting they had experienced sexual harassment in the past year. 

The survey found that there was a lack of confidence in Qantas’ reporting procedures. 

“We come from a culture of what happens on tour, stays on tour. We don’t dob. So, it has to be pretty big to report,” said one anonymous respondent to the survey. 

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