Cabin crew tells of shocking sexual harassment
INCIDENTS of passengers pulling flight attendants onto their lap and touching their genitalia and airline colleagues assaulting cabin crew have been revealed in a shocking new study into sexual harassment at Australia's airlines.
Two-thirds of airline crew have experienced sexual harassment from co-workers and passengers, a survey by the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) reveals today.
Some 400 airline cabin crew who worked for Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Tigerair and Alliance Airlines, aviation operator Cobham and labour recruitment firms Maurice Alexander Management and Altara took part in the survey.
They represent about five per cent of Australia's 8000 cabin crew workers.
They survey found four out of five crew members experienced sexual harassment from colleagues, and three in five experienced it from passengers.
Reports include serious sexual assault, workers being pinned down and assaulted, passengers exposing themselves, workers being touched on their groins and buttocks, highly sexualised comments and degrading comments targeted to crew because of their sexual orientation, the TWU said.
"On Valentine's Day, the captain told a plane full of miners to kiss the female crew," one respondent said in the survey.
Another described being propositioned by a passenger.
"A passenger exposed himself and asked me to perform oral sex," they said.
In another incident, a crew member said: "A passenger tapped my crotch as he was disembarking."
The survey found only one in five members of cabin crew reported more than 10 incidents of sexual harassment they'd experienced.
The main reasons for crew not speaking up were because they didn't feel comfortable reporting the harassment, they didn't think it would be handled properly, and they were afraid the situation would worsen.
"I didn't think I would be believed over a senior captain," one cabin crew member told the TWU.
"The culture in the industry assumes cabin crew are disposable but pilots aren't."
Of those who did report incidents, 84 per cent didn't feel satisfied with how the matter was handled by management.
The TWU heard reports cabin crew members who complained lost their jobs while perpetrators were "protected", while others were forced to continue working with perpetrators or made to sit through mediation and take phone calls from those they complained about.
Of the cabin crew members who disclosed their gender in the survey, 71 per cent were female.
The results of the survey were released today by the TWU with the hashtag #CabinCrewToo, to call for changes in the airline industry.
"These results are sad and shocking. 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," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.
"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."
The TWU said it was setting up an emergency working group of survey respondents who wanted to get involved in coming up with solutions.
"Many people want to see this issue exposed and dealt with," Mr Kaine said.
"It is not good enough for airlines to say they have policies in place to deal with sexual harassment."
He said factors that exacerbated the problem included the hierarchical nature of the work environment, overnight stopovers and cabin crew's strict dress codes.
"Our survey shows there is an endemic problem that is subjecting hundreds of men and women to the most horrendous treatment," Mr Kaine said.