Most cabin crew face 'widespread' sexual harassment

Cases range from serious sexual assault to lewd and degrading comments from passengers or co-workers

Most cabin crew face 'widespread' sexual harassment

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of cabin crew for Australian airline companies have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a report from the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

One in five crew members report experiencing more than 10 incidents of sexual harassment. The cases range from serious sexual assault to inappropriate physical contact to lewd and degrading comments from passengers or co-workers. The report also showed:

  • Four in five cabin crew were subjected to sexual harassment by colleagues.
  • Three in five were harassed by passengers.
  • About 70% decided not to report the incident because:
    • They did not think it would be handled properly (56%); or that
    • Speaking out would “make the situation worse” (39%).
  • Of those who did speak out, 84% were dissatisfied with how it was handled.
  • About 80% said their company was not doing enough to prevent sexual harassment.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called the results “sad and shocking” and pointed out 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,” Kaine said.

The union is reaching out to respondents to find out who would like to participate in an emergency working group and contribute to solving the problem.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from those we have contacted who took part in the survey. Many people want to see this issue exposed and dealt with,” said Kaine. For TWU, it is “not good enough” for airlines to have policies in place, the official said.

“We know there are factors which exacerbate this problem for cabin crew: the hierarchical nature of their work environment, the over-nights 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 men and women to the most horrendous treatment,” Kaine added.

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