Singapore Airlines agrees to stop firing pregnant air stewards
This is #30 in our series of Instagram infographics on resistance against corporate power. (December 23, 2022)
Click here to see the full post on Instagram. A text version can be seen below.
What’s the story?
Singapore Airlines has changed its policy of requiring air stewardesses to resign before the end of their first trimester of pregnancy. Instead, pregnant staff will be allowed to apply for jobs on the ground and provided with 16 weeks of paid maternity leave after giving birth.
“This is a major step forward [but] the company does not yet go far enough. The hostesses-to-be mothers should automatically have a position on the ground, without having to ask for it.” - Corina Lim, leader of Association of Women for Action and Research
Singapore Airlines was founded in 1972. The company became globally known for marketing its female hostesses with the slogan ‘Singapore Girl: You’re a Great Way to Fly’ – with pictures of slim female crew members dressed in their body-hugging uniform made of the sarong kebaya, a traditional garment of the Peranakan people in the region.
The company’s policy of hiring and marketing slim female cabin crew was reinforced by requiring air hostesses to quit their jobs after the first trimester of pregnancy. The airline argued that the policy protected the safety of mothers and their unborn children. Staff were allowed to apply for a new job after giving birth, although a position was never guaranteed.
Until 2021, Singapore did not have any specific laws on the books that banned discrimination in the workplace, although employers were required to have undefined ‘fair’ practices to be overseen by the Ministry of Manpower, which was known by its ironic acronym of MOM.
Campaign for change
For over a decade, grassroots organizations like ‘Justice For Workers Singapore’ and ‘Association of Women for Action and Research’ (AWARE), have campaigned against the Singapore Airlines’s pregnancy clause, arguing that the policy was sexist – and that female crew members should not have to choose between motherhood and a career.
"Being pregnant was not an option. No one kicked up a fuss because everyone knew. You either sacrificed your family life or your career." – Elizabeth Low, former Singapore Airlines crew member.
After the government of Singapore offered to compensate employers for providing paid maternity leave in 2008 in order to increase the national fertility rate, the airline considered giving pregnant crew members a one-time payment after birth. However, it did not change the policy requiring pregnant crew to quit until July 2022.
"Singapore Airlines supports our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy. Expecting cabin crew may choose to work in a temporary ground attachment from the time they declare the pregnancy till before the delivery."
Text by Elena Rogozenska. Design by Elisa Emch. Layout: Paula Reisdorf.