Four out of five airline cabin crew in Australia have experienced sexual harassment from co-workers, while three out of five experienced it from passengers. Reports include serious sexual assault, workers being pinned down and assaulted, passengers exposing themselves to the crew, workers being touched on their groins and buttocks, highly sexualized comments, and degrading comments targeted at crew because of their sexual orientation.
Almost 70 percent said they did not report the incident, with many (56 percent) saying they did not think it would be handled appropriately, and others (39 percent) even saying that they feared reporting it would make the situation worse.
“These results are sad and shocking,” Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Michael Kaine said. “They show that airlines are not taking the problem seriously and are not supporting workers when they are faced with what are daily assaults on them.
“It is clear that a culture exists at airlines to at best ignore the problem and at worst protect the perpetrators. Today we are lifting the lid on this widespread problem and demanding a change to the way sexual harassment of cabin crew is dealt with.”
Almost 80 percent said they did not think their company was doing enough to prevent sexual harassment at work. The crew experienced the incidents while working many major airlines, including Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Tigerair, and Alliance Airlines, aviation operator Cobham, and labour recruitment firms Maurice Alexander Management and Altara.
The TWU has contacted survey respondents and is setting up an emergency working group of those who wish to get involved in devising solutions to the problem.
“We have had a lot of positive feedback from those we have contacted who took part in the survey,” said Kaine. “Many people want to see this issue exposed and dealt with. It is not good enough for airlines to say they have policies in place to deal with sexual harassment.
“We know there are factors which exacerbate this problem for cabin crew: the hierarchical nature of their work environment, the overnights that are part of their job, and the strict dress codes which govern their appearance. Our survey shows there is an endemic problem that is subjecting hundreds of women and men to the most horrendous treatment,” Kaine added.
Of those who did report the incident, a shocking 84 percent were not satisfied with how it was handled. Reports include victims being dismissed and harassers being protected, victims forced to continue working with perpetrators after reporting an incident, and victims being forced to sit through mediation and take phone calls from perpetrators.