Aviation

Qantas survey reveals alarming number of staff reluctant to report sexual harassment

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is calling for “urgent” reforms in the airline industry after a Qantas staff survey revealed only three per cent of staff report cases of sexual harassment.

According to a summary of the survey results seen by Travel Weekly, one in four Qantas cabin crew reported experiencing sexual harassment from a colleague in the past year, with female pilots three times more likely than male pilots to experience sexual harassment.

Despite this, only three per cent of Qantas staff who have experienced sexual harassment reported it, far below the national average of 17 per cent.

One-third of those who didn’t report said it was because they made the harassment stop themselves, but others revealed they felt they would have been “ostracised, not taken seriously or would damage their career”.

Some staff said they believed they would be put through “through the absolute ringer” if they reported sexual harassment, while others said they would be seen by managers as a “trouble maker”.

“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,” one staff member is quoted saying in the report.

Qantas chief operating officer Rachel Yangoyan said in an email sent to staff that was seen by Travel Weekly that while the findings on sexual harassment were close to the national average, “we want Qantas to be better”.

“Everyone should feel safe and respected at work,” she said.

“To be clear, we have zero tolerance for any form of abuse or discrimination in any part of the Qantas Group.

Yangoyan said she encourages those who experience or witness behaviour that is unacceptable to speak up.

“You can report it to your CPM, your HR representative or to the independent whistleblower hotline. You can also access support at any time by contacting ourEAP provider,” she said.

“We need to address these issues together to make sure everyone feels respected and safe at work. And having an honest conversation about it is an important step.”

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the review confirms there is a major problem in the airline industry with sexual harassment.

“We want airlines to put in place systems that encourage people to come forward, safe in the knowledge that their complaint will be dealt with in a systematic and appropriate way. We want all staff to know clearly what behaviour is acceptable in the workplace,” he said.

“This is a moment in time for the airline industry to address the failings that the #MeToo movement has identified around the world.

“It is the industry’s chance to ensure that a new generation of cabin crew and pilots do not have to experience attacks in their workplace which have clearly been normalised to date.”

Hannah Rowlands, a former Qantas flight attendant who left the company after her complaint of sexual harassment was not dealt with properly, told TWU she was disappointed that the company failed to propose better reporting methods after the year-long review.

“It’s not enough just to say you want things to change; Qantas has to put in place systems so that crew know where to go when an incident happens and they know that it will be dealt with appropriately,” she said.

In April last year, Rowlands said during a TV interview with the Project that she was repeatedly harassed by her on-board manager and was forced to quit after the airline mishandled the situation.

“In my case, I was offered telephone counselling and face-to-face mediation with the colleague who sexually harassed me,” she said.

“Despite my requests to not have to work with him, I kept being rostered with him. When Qantas told me they could not agree to my request I was forced to take unpaid leave to avoid working with him and eventually left the industry. This way of dealing with sexual harassment is not acceptable.”

Since leaving the company Qantas has continued to use Hannah’s image in promotional materials, despite her request to delete her images.

The TWU is calling on Qantas and other airlines to urgently put in place training among staff to tackle the problem and new reporting systems to encourage workers to come forward.

It is also pushing for a clause to be included in cabin crew enterprise agreements to deal with the issue. The clause would include training for staff on behaviour and consent, information to passengers on acceptable behaviour and ensuring there are appropriate reporting systems and methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.

Qantas has declined Travel Weekly’s request for comment.



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