Last week, I wrote about an open letter that a senior trade union official sent to the chief executive of British Airways, calling on the airline to update it’s uniform and grooming policy for the 21st century. Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary of the Unite union told Alex Cruz to “relegate expectations of makeup, heel length and buttoned up jackets to the history books” in the highly critical letter that raised concerns about “sexualisation of the uniform”.
In particular, Holland was concerned about the apparent inequality of the policy which discriminates against women and called out the fact that the blouse worn by female staff was “too transparent”. In her letter, Holland said she had been made aware of some cabin crew being disciplined for wearing the wrong type or colour of bra.
Now, Holland’s letter is turning into a full-blown sexism row with the British media focusing in on the bra and blouse allegations – the issue has even been discussed on one of the UK’s most popular daytime television shows.
In its official uniform policy, one British newspaper claims British Airways says underwear shouldn’t be visible through the blouse but doesn’t mention what colour of bra should be worn – unfortunately, the airline then provides female staff with tight-fitting, semi-transparent white blouses.
Some viewers of the popular This Morning show backed British Airways and even claimed cabin crew who wore a colour of bra other than white were “cheap” or “tarty”. The majority, though, sided with Holland and said British Airways should supply a uniform that didn’t cause this issue in the first place.
As Holland put it:
“In the 21st century, it is clearly neither appropriate nor acceptable that women should be put in a situation at work where they can be demeaned for their choice of undergarments.”
She continued: “I have been advised that men are not told what underwear to put on or how tight or baggy it should be. There are clearly serious issues here of health, safety, dignity, respect and equality.”
Meanwhile, on Twitter, the airline fought back against allegations that cabin crew had been disciplined for wearing the “wrong” bra, saying:
“There is no evidence whatsoever that any of our cabin crew colleagues have ever been disciplined for their underwear. We have no policy on the type of underwear and have no intention of bringing one in.”
Clearly, in that case, something is being lost in translation. Holland also raised concerns about cabin crew having to ask permission to remove their jackets, female staffers having to wear high heels and an overemphasis on everyone “looking the same”.
While British Airways is currently in the process of designing a new uniform, the airline also seems to be resisting growing pressure to take immediate steps to improve equality.