Since HH the Chairman of Emirates Airline Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed AlMaktoum did not reply to open letter (yet), here are some suggestions on how to improve conditions at the airport.
This e-mail was sent 5 months ago to HQ by couple of our colleagues from EKAS. Again, seems like nobody listened.
As you will see, salary was not mentioned at all. After sometime from this e-mail, when nothing was changed, salary issue became important. Why else should anyone work if they do not have decent working conditions and/or decent salary that doesn’t require “surviving” in Dubai, especially after prices in Dubai hit the sky?
- Shifts for check-in and boarding staff are designed just to cover the load at the airport busiest hours with total disregard for staff’s mental and physical health. This is due to lack of employees, so we are forced to replace and work for non-existing but much needed employees in ground staff.
- New shifts at check-in area require waking up at 3:00 am and working 11 to 12 hours for 4 days per week, or working 4 days with 2 days off in which 1st working day is morning and then the rest of the 3 days are night shifts. How would a human body adjust to waking up or having a sleeping pattern with these shifts? This is causing a lot of sick leaves and absenteeism. 4 by 4 pattern would be most effective if we would have the same shifts as supervisors and managers. This way shift changes would be in the least busy timings 5:00am, 5:00pm or 6:00 am and 6:00pm, and there will be more staff on the floor if you calculate it properly.
“Standby” has a different meaning than forced overtime Ms Anoma. Unless you wanted us to be on standby at the airport, then it’s forced OT only.
- We are forced to come to work on our days off. For four months now (8 until this moment) we have forced over-time. If we don’t come to work on the forced OT day, which is normally our day off, we are marked absent and money is deducted from our salaries due to “rostered off” absence. This is very humiliating, it takes away our freedom of choice and it seriously violates human and working rights.
- These tiring shifts are catastrophic and they cause staff to be very tired, depressed, frustrated and unhappy. We do not get to sleep enough and we almost have no personal lives.
- It is psychologically impossible to continuously work with a smile for up to 11 and 12 hours, with all kinds of people, some of them very difficult and aggressive. Staff became nervous, impatient and impolite towards customers due to long and very exhausting working hours.
- In an 11-hours shift we have only 45 minutes break. To eat once in 14 hours (time to come and to go from the airport included) is very unhealthy for human body.
- We are forced to seat for 5 or 6 hours at the counters, doing same, repetitive job, although we were promised to have training for another area of work after 6 months of working with Emirates Airline. These long hours at the same counter are another reason that causes staff’s nervousness and discomfort.
- If we complain about short breaks the usual answer is that we can always ask supervisors for additional breaks, but the truth is that nowadays it’s so crowded most of the time that supervisors hesitate to give us any break at all when it’s busy, let alone another break for having a snack or meal.
- Some of the supervisors and duty officers behave very repressive. When they don’t know how to deal with exhausted and stressed out staff they use some very old methods of controlling situation like punishments and threats with QMs. Sometimes they raise QMs and warnings against staff without even asking them for their side of the story, misusing and misunderstanding their power to take restrictive actions towards staff. As a result, most of the staffs have some undeserved QMs and warnings and this is very negative for staff’s motivation and working energy.
- Since we have only one 45 minutes break, we have to ask supervisors for additional breaks. This feels very humiliating as we reached the point where we have to ask even to go to the toilet. It is like we are in the elementary school, and let’s not forget that most of the staff actually have BA and MBA degrees, so this causes huge revolt and dissatisfaction.
- During rush hours (which is almost the whole day at the airport) supervisors and duty officers have no other choice but to keep their staff at the counters by forbidding them to leave them without asking, because exhausted and stressed staffs are seeking alternative ways to get rest from continuous check in and stressed passengers (which is called “missing staff” at the airport). This is closed circle of misunderstanding of each other’s needs and problems. It is understandable that superiors and duty officers are responsible for clearing the queue and since they have less available staff, they pressurize remaining exhausting staff, who, then, due to lack of breaks and food, have no choice but to miss from their counters without supervisor’s permission.
- Instead of having trust between supervisors and staff, we have very repressive situation where supervisors are pressuring staff to clear the queue, which feels like we are slaves. All of this causes poor and non-motivating working environment where nobody respects anybody, and it is caused by higher management’s rule of fear and threats.
- Due to lack of staff, it happens that same people do several tasks at once, for which they are not paid for. This especially happens at denied boarding counters, where staff is forced to do regular check in while dealing with very stressful situations that denied boarding causes. It also happens at skywards counters. It is important to underline the fact that no staff has an issue with helping with operational needs, but the problem here is the way we are treated. We are never asked to help, we are forced to help. Supervisors will simply call another check in area to “send some passengers to skywards or DB counters” without asking us if we feel capable to do additional tasks.
- We were promised that we will have level two training in two months and gate training in six months when we have signed our contract. Staff at check in work there for more than one year before getting gates training, and even then they are withdrawn back to check in due to lack of check in staff. Mobility of the staff between departments, which is normally very important for staff’s working motivation and satisfaction, is almost non-existent.
- Since we are educated and mature people, we can easily spot the difference that this company makes between us and members of cabin crew. Usual answer of our management is that cabin crew risk their lives and health by flying so it is normal that they have better conditions. This is just an excuse for discrimination because ground staff is the first point of contact between customers and company, so we are, actually, very important for company’s image. With all due respect to cabin crew who are working very hard also.
- Organization of work at the airport is poor and it goes on the expense of check in agents. We do not have any control over our job. Passengers come to the counters from all sides (exits and entrances; there are no technical possibilities to announce to passengers when particular counter is available for check in). Marhaba, Dnata and Concierge staff feel the freedom to approach to the counters any time, even if the agent is busy. This causes chaos and nervousness, and many times even customer complaints and great dissatisfaction (both – from those who wait in queue and from those who come with Dnata, Marhaba and Concierge services).
- Developed culture of punishments. No organizational culture whatsoever.
Suggestions for improvement:
We believe that it is in everyone interest to have some improvements of ground staff’s working and living conditions. Customer service is sensitive area of work and it influences the most company’s image and brand. We can all resign and find jobs somewhere else, but that is not the goal here. Our goal is to be proud of the company we are working for and to have dignity and respect on our working posts.
- To introduce shifts which comply with the signed conditions from our contracts (42 hours per week – currently, we are working more than 42 hours per week in some shifts) and with respect to our mental and physical health.
- To abolish forced overtime.
- To abolish culture of constant punishments and rule of fear.
- To make the system for equal and fair distribution and rotation of the shifts, so that everyone gets every shift in a given period of time.
- To make our tasks at the same counter shorter (this includes standing tasks, which now lasts for 3 hours of standing on high heels).
- To make our breaks more frequent and longer especially if we are working “over 7 hours up to 12 hours”.
- To brief our superiors (supervisors, duty officers and managers) about fair usage of power to take restrictive actions against staff.
- To brief superiors about respectful organizational culture and polite communication with staff.
- To introduce the system of protection of the staff against unfair usage of superior’s power (many staff are afraid of losing their job if they express their disagreement with superiors and given QMs and warnings).
- To ease the transport from company accommodation to the airport (at this point we have to change two buses and lose more than one hour minimum to get to the airport).
- To make mobility of the staff between departments (check in, boarding gates, UM lounge, F/J, transfer desk, ramp…) more often.
- To make our working and living conditions less discriminatory in comparison with the working and living conditions of cabin crew.
- Introduce technical possibilities for check-in agents to announce their availability to the passengers.
- Better Medical insurance.
- Less discriminatory and wastas culture of promotion often under nationality key. Many managers are too young, too under qualified and too incapable to be good managers and leaders especially. This makes non existing organizational culture.
- You have chosen some very educated and experienced staff for grade 4 posts. These staff came to work with you with normal expectations that they will learn and grow within the company. Do not deny them their right to advance in their careers by treating them as disposable working force.
Thank you very much for reading this e-mail, we all hope to hear from you soon, and we do see you as our final hope for improvement of our working conditions and, consequently, customer service experience.