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More instances of bias

Published : Oct 24, 2003 00:00 IST

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AIR-INDIA is not the only culprit when it comes to gender discrimination. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) study "Restructuring of Civil Aviation: Consequences for Management and Personnel", conducted in 2001, examined gender issues in airline companies and came to the conclusion that discrimination exists between the male and female employees in several airlines across the world.

According to the study, there are many companies in the transport sector, including civil aviation, that did not live up to the provisions in the ILO's Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, Maternity Protection Convention, 1951(revised in 2000) and Discrimination Convention, 1958. Authors of the report argue that "recent competitive pressures and accompanying managerial initiatives are intensifying demands on female employees for the production of emotional labour". They believe that it involves skills that women are seen to possess simply by virtue of being women.

The report points out that even though the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has been consistently campaigning against sexual discrimination in the airline industry, women civil aviation workers are still not treated fairly. The ITF says that the airlines should be committed to marketing their services without using images that treat employees as sex objects or encourage passengers to view them this way. In fact, the main emphasis should be on promoting cabin crew as safety professionals rather than as decorative and sexy. "Such action would mean rejecting the use of discriminatory weight limits or other requirements linked to appearance in recruitment and employment; applying equal retirement ages for men and women; providing equal and positive employment and career development opportunities for men and women; ensuring that all employees enjoy their full right to marry and have children.

The study cites a case of 1998, where the female employees of Trans World Airlines (TWA) sued the company for sexual harassment. Instead of taking remedial action, the airline retaliated against those who complained.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Oct 24, 2003.)

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