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Posted On: 2 May 2013 02:18 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:12 pm

Transport union slams Qatar bid to host UN aviation body

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The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has hit out at Qatar’s “outrageous” offer to move the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) from Montreal to Doha, branding the Gulf state “a byword for democratic deficit”. The union, which represents around 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries, compared the proposal to an April Fool's Day joke. The headquarters of the ICAO has been resident in the Canadian city of Montreal since 1946. Last week it was confirmed Qatar had offered to build the organisation a new headquarters in Doha when its 20 year lease comes up for renewal in 2016, a move which has been harshly criticised by the influential London-based ITF, which presents around 700 transport unions around the world. “Emerging out of the poisonous cloud of allegations of corruption and vote buying surrounding the World Cup decision, this could almost be an April Fool’s Day joke. Can the Qatari government really expect to transplant a vital United Nations organisation and its staff to a nation that is a byword for democratic deficit?” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said in a statement. “The UN cannot bend to the power of the Riyal at a time when ordinary Qataris’ fights for rights are met with massive repression. It’s doubly outrageous when thousands of staff at Qatar Airways are denied the fundamental right to union membership enshrined by the UN,” he added. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), a frequent critic of Qatar’s labour policies, echoed the ITF’s sentiments. “The people who work for the ICAO need to know that they would be moving to a rights-free zone where the fundamental standards of the International Labour Organisation, a sister body of the ICAO, simply don’t apply. No foreign employee, whether a cleaner or a football star, is allowed to quit Qatar unless their employer allows them to,” added ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. This week, an ICAO spokesperson told Arabian Business the organisation had not approached Qatar about the offer and was currently evaluating the Doha government proposal. “Qatar was not invited to submit its offer. This was purely a Qatari initiative. ICAO has not entered into discussion with any states on the topic of its permanent seat, not even Qatar. For now we have simply received an offer and, for this offer to formally proceed, Qatar must prepare a working paper for the next assembly so that all relevant details may be duly considered by our member states,” the spokesperson said. As part of the lucrative offer, Qatar said it would cover the construction of a new, state-of-the-art premises for ICAO and all expenses relating to its equipage and facilities, maintenance, utilities, insurance and security. Doha has also offered to cover all expenses related to moving the current HQ and relevant staff to the new Qatar location, all expenses regarding contract or staff terminations and severance packages required as a result of the HQ move, as well as maximum health coverage and reduced educational fees for ICAO staff residing in Qatar. The move would be a diplomatic embarrassment for the Ottawa government and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has personally intervened to prevent the loss of the high profile UN organisation. “Minister Baird has spoken to the Prime Minister of Qatar twice this week about the issue. Our government is working to keep ICAO in Montreal,” Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Baird told Arabian Business. “Minister Baird is personally ready, willing and keen to work with the Government of Quebec and the City of Montreal to keep ICAO in such a world-class city,” he added. According to a report by the French-language La Presse newspaper, Qatar claimed Montreal was too far from Europe and Asia and suffered cold winters. The report also said Qatar claimed Canada made it hard for delegates to get visas and Canadian taxes were too high. In a bid to seal the deal, Qatar is also said to have offered build new brand new headquarter for the ICAO and cover all the organisation's running costs. The Qatar offer will be considered by all of ICAO’s 191 member states at its next assembly meeting on September 24. A minimum of 60 percent of ICAO member states will need to agree the proposal for the headquarters to be moved to Qatar from 2016. Source: Arabian Business