Rights groups and labor unions oppose Russian government's plan to require HIV and hepatitis testing for new pilots and aviation staff

11:54, 9 august 2017

Labor groups and at least three public organizations that work to defend the rights of HIV-positive people are asking Russia’s Transportation Ministry not to adopt a new bylaw that would require pilots, flight attendants, and dispatchers to submit to HIV and hepatitis testing before they could be hired, according to the newspaper Kommersant. The ministry introduced the proposed regulations on new hires and returning staff last month.

According to the new bylaw’s critics, HIV and hepatitis B and C “do not affect the ability of crew members or ground services workers to perform their job duties.”

In an interview with Kommersant, the president of the Russian Labor Confederation, Boris Kravchenko, called the Transportation Ministry’s proposal “a discriminatory demand,” pointing out that Russia suffers from a shortage of commercial pilots. “We mustn’t exacerbate this deficit with the half-baked actions of bureaucrats,” Kravchenko said.

The Transportation Ministry, meanwhile, says it’s received no open letter from any social groups regarding the proposed regulations. Officials told Kommersant that they welcome the public discussion now underway, saying it’s still “premature” for the ministry to comment on the issue.

The Russian Labor Confederation president argues that any orders by the Transportation Ministry affecting working conditions should first be approved by Russia’s Tripartite Commission regulating social and labor relations. “The labor unions will certainly oppose [this measure], and I think employers will support us,” Kravchenko added.

In March 2017, Russia’s Supreme Court lifted the Transportation Ministry’s ban on HIV-positive people working as flight attendants. In April 2011, the same court ruled that it is illegal to prohibit people with HIV from working as pilots.
In June 2017, Kommersant reported that Russia is experiencing a massive exodus of pilots to foreign airlines, especially to Chinese companies. In the past 2.5 years, the newspaper said, roughly 300 Russian pilots have left the country to work abroad.