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Tag Archives: Airplane safety

Not so glamorous Emirates Airline lifestyle

I’ve read this article on Yahoo Lifestyle yesterday and wondered how far can a pursuit for the profit go? And does doing business these days means only flooding the media with stories which promote your desirable image? Does any CEO or business owner today thinks they can resolve their inner organizational and human resources problems with a few positive image articles on the internet? How long before managers figure out that they cannot beat the internet because it gives an equal power to everyone, including those whose voice managers don’t want to hear?

I am not glad to see that EK managers hadn’t learned much about running the long lasting business. They are still trying to mask the problems with the old “high class lifestyle” public discourse, while their company is falling apart from the inside.

Is it that human conscience is limited with its own mortality so much that managers simply don’t care what will happen after they go, or they simply don’t know how to think in future terms? Maybe combination of both, but, in the meantime, while EK is struggling with its limited managers whose only job is, it seems, to drink Costa coffee in the HQ Costa cafe and to make sure that internet gets its daily dose of “Emirates high class lifestyle” articles, this blog will publish not so glamorous stories about the real lifestyle inside Emirates Airline.

I’ve got this story as a comment on my blog and decided to publish it as an article because I had similar health issues while I was working in EK (without health insurance!). When your employer doesn’t care about your health, I guess you have to take care of yourself and the internet can be a good doctor in the world which recognizes only money for its supreme leader.

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“Dragna, I have been following your blog for about 2 years. I’ve resigned from EK in 2013.

I left because I felt we as crew were not treated fairly, there was no Support system we could rely on.
2012 I was diagnosed with a begnine tumor in my uterus, and after pleading with my manager to let me come home for the operation (because they wanted me to have the surgery in Dubai, and if so, I’m pretty sure I would have died,since I had complication during it), I was allowed one month for surgery and recovery.

Obviously it took more than one month, and while recovering I was stressing out, because I kept seeing flights being rostered, and, just because I hadn’t sent my doctor’s letter on time (I was at the hospital) stating that I was still in hospital and could not return.
There was no one in charge to contact directly (they were closed for Eid) and instead of being relaxed and advancing on my recovery, I was freaking out.

It was one of the most horrific experiences of my life.

Later I found out that the reason that tumor had developed was due to hormonal inbalance caused by lack of proper nutriton, rest and stress.
In conversation with at least 7 female crew, i found out that they too had had simililar problems, and had to have surgery.

My last year at Emirates I was A380 FG1, more than once I had to eat standing and while the service was going on. I would grab a bite everytime I enter the galley and chew before I took the next item of food to the customer. With On Demand service, breaks to eat are nearly impossible.

When I came back home for good, I had medical tests done and I was diagnosed with severe anaemia, not to mention that I fell into deep depression which I’m still battling with.

The good times of my EK experience were completely obscured by the many bad things that happened. Sad to say it.

Anonymous”

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Emirates’ flight attendants are starving?

In some of the previous stories on this blog we have seen that EK cabin crew work in inhumane conditions, but this e-mail I’ve got from one former member of EK cabin crew shows how Emirates’ flight attendants don’t even have a meal break on their flights.

This e-mail I am sending you shows how EK has removed the meal break on long flights and how the crew are not able to seat and eat on the flights:

The stations (only) were given a revision in their policies manual which removed the need to soft block seats (therefore depriving the crew from having adequate seating to have their meal break. In April this year the company issued a revision to the outstation policies manual putting the soft block policy back. For 7 years the cabin crew manual still had the soft block policy in place and it was a requirement to have the meal break but of course we were never given it because we didn’t have the seats arranged. The  company don’t allow us to eat in the jump seats facing the passengers (95% of Jump seats).

That email shows how management have:

1. Removed a rest policy without informing the crew (and the crew are responsible for adhering to rest policies)
2. Have willfully changed a GCAA controlled document (the manual) without sanction from the regulator.
3. Known that this discrepancy between the two manuals is causing confusion.
4. Known that crew already have difficulty having a meal break due to the configuration of the A380 as most of the jump seats are in the cabin and not the galley and the company prioritising the image concern of crew eating versus allowing them to have a legally required meal break.
5. Introduced two services on a 5:30 flight so that there is no possibility for the crew to even have a meal break.
6. Placed the responsibility on the purser for giving the meal break and in the event that a safety incident occurred (like a crew being so fatigued that they open the cabin door with the escape slide armed or they give the wrong medication to a passenger having a heart attack) the management could always turn to the crew and say: there is a meal break in the manual… Why did you not take the meal break?

The same person has also sent me this e-mail:

I found out that EK did an illegal flight from Dubai to Munich, where the crew and pilots operated the flight and had a rest of 8 hours, when the minimum rest required is 11 hours. but because there was a technical problem on another airplane, they called another set of crew and pilots to do this flight and they gave them less than the minimum rest, and everything goes normal for EK, breaking the rules and even after the accident, they didn’t seem to learn that they were very very lucky for no passenger or crew to die on that one. They are pushing everyone to the limit till another one happens and with fatalities, because they have money and they simply don’t care for human lives.

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From EK’s internal cabin crew flight schedule system


A few photos of the damaged Emirates plane

Emirates plane catches fire in Dubai; hundreds escape, 1 firefighter killed

August 3, 2016

 


“Emirates airline plane ‘crash lands at Dubai International Airport”

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An Emirates airline plane has crash landed at Dubai Airport after reportedly catching fire in mid-air.

The Dubai government confirmed the Boeing 777-300 jet crash-landed at the airport shortly after 1pm local time (9am UK time) with 300 passengers and crew on board.

The three-hour flight took off from Trivandrum International Airport in India at around 6am UK time before the captain is understood to have sent out and emergency signal shortly before the plane was due to land.

No-one is believed to have been seriously injured and passengers have been safely evacuated.

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Read more at: Mirror


“Flying tired: airline pilots on tough rosters battle fatigue”

I’ve got a kind request to feature this article from the Australian Newspaper “The Sydney Morning Herald”.
I have to say I made a decision to stop blogging almost a year ago, but somehow I keep getting requests to publish EK employees’ stories.

Since I understand that this blog is maybe the only outlet of many to write about injustices and troubles they’ve been through, I never had a heart not to publish a personal experience of someone who has obviously been through a lot of humiliation and stress just because some EK manager wants to show their power or is incompetent and inhumane or directly violates human and labor rights.
So here it is. Another request fulfilled. Hope it will bring some good to all the responsible and good EK employees out there.

Seems that we care about that company and its passengers more than its managers do.

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In some situations, pilots are allowed to nap on the flight deck to alleviate fatigue. Photo: Jim Rice

For passengers, the 5am flight from Brisbane to Sydney during daylight saving time in NSW is hardly a pleasant experience. But spare a thought for the two pilots who have probably woken up about 2:30am to make the 4am sign-on and may then have to make four flights over an 11 to 12-hour period.

“Back-to-back of these is very, very fatiguing,” says a Qantas 737 pilot.

Or consider the late evening flight from Sydney to Perth.

The passengers arrive in Perth after midnight local time, but at Jetstar and Tigerair Australia, the two pilots on board will head straight back to Sydney, arriving just in time to battle peak-hour traffic before they can make it home to rest.

“It is pretty hard to make the case that you are on your A-game at the top of descent [into Sydney] on the return leg,” a Jetstar A320 pilot says.

“There are duties you do at Jetstar that wouldn’t be entertained at Qantas. A low-cost carrier is more intense in terms of the rostering requirements.”

Many industries fatigued

Pilots are hardly the only workers in Australia with exhausting shifts. Truck drivers, miners, doctors, nurses and others also work long shifts with hours that can   disrupt the biological clock.

“By and large, pilots are at the low end of the fatigue scale in terms of other industries,” says Professor Drew Dawson, a sleep and fatigue specialist at CQUniversity Australia. “At the other end, they are at the high end of the consequence scale.”

The crash of a Flydubai 737 at Rostov-on-Don, Russia, last month that killed all 62 passengers and crew on board has reignited discussion of fatigue management within aviation circles at a time when Australia is close to introducing new fatigue regulations.

The accident is still being investigated and whether fatigue was definitely a factor is unknown. But the crash occurred in tough circumstances at 3:50am local time (4:50am Dubai time), after two hours of circling due to bad weather and two aborted landing attempts. Scientific studies show mental alertness can be at its poorest during the “window of circadian low” between 2am and 5am.

Emirates’ tiring schedule

The airline, like fellow Dubai-based carrier Emirates, is known among pilots for having rosters that are within the United Arab Emirates legal limits but nonetheless very tiring.

In the UAE, the maximum flying time is 100 hours per 28 days versus 100 hours per 30 days in Australia. On an annual basis, UAE pilots can fly 1000 hours a year versus 900 a year here.

“The point about regulation is you can have flight-duty time limitations in which you can produce two compliant rosters but one can be extremely friendly and low fatigue risk and one can be extremely high fatigue risk,” says CQUniversity associate professor and sleep expert Matthew Thomas.

He says as a rough guide, research shows if a pilot has less than five hours sleep in the 24 hours before flying, twice as many errors may occur.

Pilot fatigue has been cited as a factor in at least 12 accidents and 64 near misses globally over the past 10 years, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. But more than half of all accidents are caused by pilot errors and it is possible fatigue is understated as a factor in official reporting.

‘We are not machines’

The ATSB report on one of Australia’s worst-ever accidents, the Emirates flight 407 runway overrun and tail strike at Melbourne Airport in 2009, said fatigue was unlikely to have been a factor, but the flight’s captain told media he was sleep-deprived.

The error that caused the EK407 incident was the input of the aircraft’s weight as 100 tonnes lighter than it actually was.

A former Emirates 777 captain said he had once made a similar mistake when flying for the Dubai-based carrier as a result of fatigue, but luckily it had been caught by another pilot before take-off.

“Everything is legal of course,” he said of the Emirates rosters. “But we are not machines.”

Pilots at many airlines are allowed what is called “controlled rest on the flight deck”, which means they can put their head back and nap in their chair for short periods, typically under 40 minutes, as long as the other pilot is retaining a close watch over the flight during the cruise period.

Both asleep

However, the former Emirates captain said pilots were often so tired that one would allow the other to sleep for two to three hours at a time. On occasion, the pilot supposed to be watching the controls would accidentally fall asleep for a few minutes, meaning if a sudden incident occurred mid-air, the reaction times of both would be slowed.

“I have flown with guys that have woken up mid-flight and the other pilot has been asleep mid-flight between Dubai and London,” says a Qantas A380 pilot. “This should not happen as the cabin crew are supposed to call up every 30 minutes but some crews may call them and say do not call as one of the pilots is having a controlled rest.”

For airlines, adding more pilots on sectors or changing rosters could come at a financial cost. The carriers naturally want to maximise their profitability by having their highly paid pilots fly as many hours as possible within the rules. But they are also interested in safety, as serious incidents and crashes cause brand damage and lawsuits they want to avoid.

Another potential problem is that pilot fatigue is probably underreported by the pilots themselves, albeit more so at some carriers than others depending on the company culture.  Reporting fatigue requires the pilot to fill out a form with an explanation and takes longer than ringing in sick.

Open culture call

“What we want is an open reporting culture,” says Australian Federation of Air Pilots executive director Simon Lutton. “They shouldn’t be doing a flight if they are not in a fit state to do it.”

Pilots at major Australian carriers said there was no punishment for reporting fatigue and in some cases it led the airline to take steps to fix the situation, if it was due to a factor such as a noisy lay-over hotel.

Airlines have also changed some rosters over time as a result of pilots reporting fatigue. When Virgin changed the timing of its Sydney-Los Angeles flight by nearly four hours, it first assessed potential fatigue hazards for pilots. Qantas is reviewing the possibility of rostering on a third pilot on the QF2 flight from London to Dubai as a result of feedback.

“My experience with Qantas has been very positive,” a 737 pilot said. “If you need time off and you ask for it, then the company has always been able to arrange that.”

The situation differs in other parts of the world, where there are no unions or Western-style seniority system.

“There are all sorts of ways you can put pressure on pilots,” a Virgin 737 pilot says of situation in the Middle East. “If you don’t like it, all you can really do is leave.”

Fatigue ‘taken seriously’

A current Emirates pilot said reporting fatigue often led to sleep apnoea testing and at least a temporary grounding. The former Emirates captain said his high use of sick days, mostly when fatigued, was noticed by management and delayed his promotion from first officer to captain for months.

An Emirates spokeswoman would not say whether taking reporting illness or fatigue could affect promotion, but said the airline maintained “the highest standards” when considering a promotion to captain.

“Flight fatigue is an issue we take seriously,” she says. “If pilots feel that Emirates has not addressed their concerns, they also have recourse of addressing this with the regulator, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).”

The president of GCAA, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, is also the chairman and chief executive of Emirates and the chairman of Flydubai.

Australia’s new rules

Locally, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in 2013 introduced new rules for pilot fatigue management. They were initially supposed to take effect this month, but the deadline was moved to May 2017 to give airlines more time to develop new systems.

The old fatigue rules defined flight and duty time limitations in a rigid way with no regard to the science behind fatigue, including whether pilots are acclimatised to the time zone. The new rules provide more flexibility for individual airlines, but each fatigue risk management system will require CASA’s approval.

Australian and International Pilots Association president Nathan Safe, whose union represents Qantas pilots, says the new science-based approach to flight-time limitations based on factors including circadian lows was welcome, but the real test will be in how it is implemented and operated.

For the major commercial airlines, the new system could result in less flying rather than more flying in many cases.

Regional Express last year claimed the new rules could cost it more than $4 million a year and might make some routes unviable.

CASA will be taking a much firmer approach to extensions of duty, with airlines required to monitor weather and airspace patterns statistically before calculating duty periods.

“Operators need to be more realistic about the possible delays in the system and ensure that if there are foreseeable delays, they can be incorporated into the maximum allowable duty period and don’t result in an extension,” a CASA spokesman said.

A Qantas 737 pilot says the change is welcome. “It will mean that Qantas will no longer be able to schedule near 12-hour day patterns,” he says.

Since 2007, Virgin has operated a data-driven fatigue risk management. Qantas, Jetstar and Tigerair are still developing their systems ahead of next May’s deadline.

It is unclear whether Jetstar and Tigerair will end the tiring Sydney-Perth-Sydney night shifts under the new system.

Qantas and Virgin say the reason these shifts aren’t done at the main carriers is because they are prohibited in the unionised employment agreements, rather than because of fatigue concerns.

Qantas Group medical director Dr Ian Hosegood said the group’s airlines have robust systems in place to manage fatigue, including a fatigue management committee which includes pilots, safety specialists and crew planners.

“We closely monitor fatigue risk on all shifts, particularly longer and late night shifts,” he says.

For example, Qantas recently changed its rostering after the Tokyo-Brisbane route, which lands at 6:45am in Brisbane after 10 hours of duty. The pilots now start their duties the following day at a later time with a reduced workload of one to two short domestic sectors.

Dr Dawson, the fatigue specialist, says pilots must also bear some responsibility, and try to limit distractions at home and partying on the road to ensure they are rested before flights.

And after more than a decade of studying fatigue in the aviation industry, he says the issue doesn’t particularly worry him when he takes a flight.

“The number of flights that crash is less than one in a million,” Dr Dawson says. “I’ve got more chance being killed on the way to the airport than in an airplane.”

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/business/aviation/flying-tired-airline-pilots-on-tough-rosters-battle-fatigue-20160413-go5fmo.html


Would Emirates be better off with a Trade Union?

A new blog and a very interesting point of view from a former Senior Vice President of Emirates Group IT Tom Burgess.

I appreciate that introducing a Trade Union into Emirates is probably the last thing on the company’s agenda during these challenging times, but maybe it is not such a foolish idea.

Spotlights are being focussed on the Emirates Group with increasing frequency and intensity. The motives of those holding the lights vary considerably, but it is clear that the standard Emirates response (put on the sunglasses then, if that fails, smash the bulbs) no longer works. Eventually, someone will realise that it is finally time to communicate with those guiding the lights and to have a close and open minded look at what is being illuminated. Once that is done, to enable the company to survive going forward, a total shift of management ethos will be required. Most involved will feel the need to admit that “we got it wrong” will be the toughest challenge, but far greater than that will be how to open up channels of communication with those who really matter – the staff. Those staff who, for their entire careers in Emirates, have sensibly concluded that you only ever tell your manager what s/he wants to hear. Anything else is, at best, career limiting, but more likely career terminating. Historically, managers in Emirates normally have only asked staff for their opinions to check their loyalty and compliance – a test rather than a quest. Assertions of “you can trust us now” will merely be seen as a trap. Maybe an intermediary such as a Trade Union would be able to help?

During my lifetime I have gone round a few circles with my views on Trade Unions. In the UK in the 1960’s they were often ridiculed, seemingly looking for the slightest excuse to down tools. By the early 1970’s many people thought they had too much power and by the end of that decade pretty well everyone, including some members of Trade Unions, knew they had too much power. Enter Margaret Thatcher. Whilst most people recognised the need for, and applauded the result of, her strategy, they were dismayed by her methods (and the resulting social impact) and then appalled as she subsequently took steps (which thankfully failed) to ban Trade Unions in some arenas. For quite some time afterwards, the UK employment environment seemed to provide a good model for everyone involved – staff enjoyed protection, but companies were allowed to run their businesses and communication within all industries improved dramatically. However, many feel that the balance has been tipping in recent times, with workers’ protection progressively diminishing.

My own experiences with Trade Unions were mixed. I managed in all sorts of environments – non-union (by employee choice), mixed union/non-union and total union – and this gave me forever changing perspectives. As a manager, I finally concluded that, broadly, Unions were a waste of time. But this only applied in organisations where management and the HR department actually did the jobs that they were paid to do. Sadly, such organisations are becoming rare and Emirates is light years away from such a position. If a company has a weak HR function, then managers will be tempted to run riot and the company will need a Trade Union to function effectively.

When I worked in the oil industry the production side (refineries, etc.) was heavily unionised but less so the ‘white collar’ environment. The company was properly managed and the ideals of staff involvement, communication, development, retention and motivation were embedded in everyday life, not just words on recruitment material. Naturally the production side of the business enjoyed the benefits of that approach as much as the white collar areas did, but the physical environment did not generally lend itself to open discussion. Add into the mix the need for a huge focus on safety, it was imperative that a comprehensive and forceful voice could be presented to management regarding the serious issues of the day. Regardless of how professional and experienced a manager is, balancing the need to reduce costs with the imperative of maintaining safety is never going to be easy. In an environment where the impact of an operational accident is significant, there comes a time when that challenge becomes potentially impossible. So, in that industry, an independent voice and channel (via a Trade Union) for operational staff was essential. A major incident at an oil refinery can be on the same scale as an aviation disaster.

As managers, there are times when we need to be ‘saved from ourselves’. My saviours were often colleagues in HR departments and I was privileged to have worked with some excellent people over the years. (This includes two HRM’s in Emirates, though sadly both left the company some time ago). One of my favourite HR Directors used to say “Yes, I can see what you are trying to achieve . . .” and then came the word “but”! I think senior managers in Emirates would have benefitted from that word “but” many times over the years. However, this will not happen all the time Emirates HR department is seen (both by the company and by itself) solely as an administrative support function.

I cannot say that I was ever ‘saved’ by a Trade Union representative. My HR colleagues were quite frankly streets ahead of them when it came to people issues. But I did value Union counsel when seeking staff views. I had worked in open management cultures for many years, where everyone was comfortable with saying what they thought without fear of incrimination. But following company mergers, when I found myself leading teams who had previously been managed more in the Emirates style (though nowhere near as extreme), it would have been absurd to expect everyone to open up and trust me from day one. Trust takes a long time to achieve and probably becomes permanently unachievable if you ever say “you can trust me”. But staff did (rightly) trust their Union representative, so that was a useful route to find out what staff really thought about matters. And naturally, as trust was established between managers and Union representatives, that trust permeated in all directions, to the benefit of everyone involved.

Until Emirates HR department becomes functional, there is huge gap to fill if management, indeed the company, is going to be saved from itself. Here are a few examples where truly independent involvement would have helped:

The overwhelming consensus is that the views expressed in the last staff survey were extremely bad, but nobody really knows how bad they were. Eventually, a very brief communication was issued which basically revealed nothing. Does anyone believe that any Trade Union would let a company get away with that? When a survey is commissioned staff will participate, tell the truth and rightly expect to be given the results. How will Emirates, in the future, obtain information that can only be obtained by a comprehensive staff survey? Who will bother? Only those who fear that non completion will result in a penalty will complete it. And if they have concluded that the survey is not confidential, they will not relay any concerns they have. A Trade Union could have saved Emirates from itself on this one. No matter how bad the results were, the impact from publishing them would have not been as negative as it has been by burying the exercise.

The ‘Truth about Emirates Airline Management’ blog has been running for what seems like an eternity. Those who initially asserted ‘ignore it, it will soon go away’ are looking rather silly now. With the existence of a Trade Union, that blog would never have been initiated. If a Trade Union were now to be introduced in Emirates, that blog would soon be taken down. With a Trade Union in place, there would never have been the need to record a meeting, as no manager would risk such behaviour if they had to account to a Trade Union. Had there been an issue between the company and an employee, a Union would have helped an appropriate and amicable way forward to be reached. Had a genuine impasse been reached regarding End of Service benefits, a Union would have assisted with a solution. The need for the ‘truth’ blog should never have arisen but, if the issues that prompted it had somehow not been picked up, a Union would have insisted that action be taken to have the blog removed. It is not only the Emirates Group that is being exposed and made a laughing stock by the ‘truth’ blog, staff members are impacted too. People want to be proud of the company they work for, not ashamed of it. And there must be many in Emirates who are concerned that they too may get a mention – though this is probably a real benefit of the blog as managers who bully will have certainly backed off in response to this particular spotlight. A Union would be able to force the advice (that most people worked out over a year ago) onto Emirates management – stop throwing bricks, go and talk to the lady with the lamp!

Major tragic events in the aviation industry in the last few years have drawn the travelling public to aviation forums and many will be alarmed at the increasing swell of concern about the fitness of flight deck crew to operate safely. It is too easy to make arguments at the ends of the scale – ‘lazy, overpaid prima donnas’ through to ‘so tired I cannot keep awake’. The same goes for the ‘over regulated’/ ‘under regulated’ arguments as well as the ‘ruthless profiteers’ versus the ‘hopelessly inefficient, but bailed out by government’ descriptions of airlines. The travelling public can only feel confident about what is a very complex equation, if they are certain that the overall framework is comprehensive and constructed with firm and independent parts. The public want to have confidence that an airline encourages and reacts to staff (at all levels) concerns, has an alternate and confidential route (such as via a Trade Union) for such communication (should individuals prefer) and is regulated by a genuinely independent official agency. A cynic can always question the competence and the true independence of all those involved, but what I have just described is a pretty robust and balanced framework. But take away the Trade Union and the structure loses its rigidity. Regardless if it is true or not, what travellers are deducing from the aviation forums at the moment is that the airlines and the regulator in the Middle East are working hand in hand and that staff views, if heard at all, are ignored. One picture currently being presented is that if a member of Emirates flight deck crew has a concern about safety, then their best chance of being listened to would be to contact either a German Trade Union or a Russian news channel. Would it not be better if s/he could talk to a Trade Union representing staff in Emirates? I am sure if that option were to be available, the public would feel more confident about flying with Emirates.

I do recognise that just to mention the words ‘Trade Union’ in Emirates could lead to serious consequences, so maybe ‘Staff Association’ would be more palatable. It would require a sea change in management attitude, but anyone who believes that a sea change in management attitude is not required in Emirates is a fool. Membership could be optional, though most companies see the benefit of a strong Union or Association, so actively encourage people to join. Individuals could then join and see if it works for them.

And if they don’t like it, they can leave!!

 


‘Emirates crews extremely fatigued’: Exhausted pilots tell RT of disturbing conditions

It’s so sad that Emirates Airline managers were warned in more than a year and a half ago that public will soon know about the bad treatment of their employees and the violation of labour rights and that their image and brand will be ruined. They’ve got that advice as a threat when they should have got it as an advice in a good will and do everything to improve working conditions.