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One In Four Qantas Crew Sexually Harassed In 'Shocking' Wakeup Call For Airline Industry

Unions want "urgent" reforms at the top of Qantas after a company review found a quarter of female cabin crew and pilots had been sexually harassed in the past 12 months.

The Transport Workers Union has slammed Australia's national carrier after a review of Qantas staff found one in four had experienced sexual harassment in the last year at the hands of a colleague or passenger.

Despite the number, just three percent reported their experience, which the TWU claimed was due to a culture of "festering secrecy" at the airline, while former employees spoke of failures in Qantas' responses to the issue.

“This review confirms that there is a major problem in the airline industry with sexual harassment," said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

"Too many workers are experiencing sexual harassment and they are being forced to deal with it in silence while their perpetrators take advantage of what the Qantas review identified as a ‘we don’t dob’ culture."

Qantas has been accused of failing to properly respond to sexual harassment. Image: Getty.

The three percent of people reporting harassment is below the airline industry average of 31 percent, and the national average of 17 percent, according to the TWU.

Around 1,650 cabin crew and 750 pilots took part in the Qantas survey, with many claiming they felt pressured to keep their experiences quiet, instead of reporting them to their bosses.

"If I reported something, I would be put through the absolute wringer," one staff member claimed.

One in four cabin crew and pilots reported sexual harassment. Image: Getty

Qantas chief operating officer Rachel Yangoyan told staff in an email on Monday that the company has "zero tolerance for any form of abuse or discrimination" and "we want Qantas to be better than that".

It comes after a similar TWU report in October last year, which found 65 percent of airline cabin crew surveyed had experienced sexual harassment while at work, including passengers exposing themselves or making lewd comments, or actually being assaulted.

One in five of those people reported having experienced more than 10 incidents of sexual harassment, while most were unhappy with how their employer handled their complaints -- which sometimes led to victims being dismissed from their position.

The TWU has called for Qantas to institute change. Image: Getty

On Tuesday, the TWU shared sentiments from former Qantas flight attendant Hannah Rowlands, who said she quit the company after she felt her harassment complaint was "not dealt with properly". She claimed the company had failed to improve its reporting system to deal with such harassment.

“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," Rowlands said.

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

“This review confirms that there is a major problem in the airline industry with sexual harassment," said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. Image: Getty

Kaine called on the airline to "face up to this reality".

"This is exactly the same kind of festering secrecy that allowed the worst predators in other industries to continue attacking women for decades," Kaine claimed.

The TWU want Qantas to undertake sweeping reform in the area, including consent training for staff, information to passengers on acceptable behaviour, and strengthening reporting systems to deal with sexual harassment complaints.

In a statement to 10 daily, the airline said it would work with the Flight Attendants' Association of Australia on establishing a cabin crew peer support network.

"This way of dealing with sexual harassment is not acceptable," a former Qantas employee said. Image: Qantas

The union wants to see a clause inserted into employment agreements for cabin crew staff to specifically cover the area of harassment reports and training.

“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," Kaine 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."