Ryanair, Ireland's most notorious anti-union firm, has been forced to agree to recognising unions but, so far, only in principle.
But workers will not jump to the command of its union busting boss. They do not trust him an inch and want to ensure that Michael O Leary is not playing another of his tricks.
Ten years ago Ryanair took a case to the Supreme Court to challenge what it considered to be ‘an attempt at union recognition by the back door’.
It was referring to an objection that the IMPACT union had processed through the Labour Court over Ryanair’s demand that pilots pay for their own training.
But now the very same company says it is writing to IMPACT to say it will recognise it for negotiation – under certain conditions.
This statement was forced on them by threatened strike action. Over the past few months, pilots have been systematically organising across different countries to win their right to collective bargaining.
They are tired of the Ryanair’s model of bogus self-employment, where up to 60% of pilots are on contracts which deny them proper holiday and sick pay.
In a magnificent display of solidarity, they co-ordinated strike action in Portugal, Italy and Ireland to hit Ryanair hard.
Their action has brought a humiliating climb -down from the modern equivalent of William Martin Murphy.
But the pilots will not call off their action until they are fully sure about what exactly Ryanair is committing too.
They know that the company is desperate to get the strike action called off before Christmas and will want to talk in January when pilots have less leverage.
So they will not fall for rhetoric – they want real commitments.
Three issues in particular are crucial:
- Ryanair say they will negotiate with local union representatives. But workers have a right to bring in a full time official from outside the company, who will never be open to its blackmail tactics.
- Pilots have a right to negotiate and set rates across country boundaries. There is no reason why one pilot should be paid less just because they are working from a less central hub.
- Other workers in Ryanair such as cabin crew and baggage handlers have also a right to union recognition. And Ryanair needs to acknowledge that.
The whole episode shows that workers’ power is coming back.
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