Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Ryanair Don't Care campaign

Recently, a comrade from Liverpool Solidarity Federation came across the Ryanair Don't Care campaign. It was formed by John Foley to expose and fight Ryanair's exploitative mistreatment of employees. John has been arrested numerous times for direct action, and blogs exposing how workers are treated in the company have been shut down by service providers.

In this interview, John explains the history of the campaign and what its aims are;

Soon after this chance meeting, Liverpool Solfed agreed to support the campaign. John responded by saying "this is a great day today as Liverpool Solidarity Federation support our campaign to help stop Europe's Greatest Training Robbers Ryanair from wrecking even more students lives."

Solfed's sister section in Spain, the CNT, has had a long-running dispute with Ryanair over similar issues. This article from the Summer 2009 issue of Direct Action gives more details;

Ryanair workers in Zaragoza, Spain, are currently in dispute. The workers involved are members of the anarcho-syndicalist union, the CNT. The dispute started in March when Ryanair cut the hours of staff by reducing the working day. The strikers are also protesting at Ryanair’s refusal to make staff on temporary contracts permanent.

The dispute deepened when the delegate of the CNT’s union section in Ryanair received a letter of dismissal, for reasons of unsuitability, claiming a drop in the worker’s performance – a claim that is clear nonsense. Ryanair hoped that by sacking the CNT delegate the rest of the strikers would be intimidated back to work.

The move backfired, however, with the sacking only stiffening the strikers’ resolve. The strikers have made it clear there will be no resolution of the dispute until their delegate is reinstated. They have also made it clear that they will reject any attempts to pay compensation as an alternative to the full reinstatement of their sacked comrade.

But the dispute should not just be seen in the context of defending pay and conditions. Since the CNT began organising in Ryanair, management have tried everything possible to discourage staff from joining the union. This should come as no surprise. Ryanair are no lovers of even reformist unions, so it’s no shock that they have resisted the spread of the revolutionary CNT. Should the strikers fail there is little doubt that Ryanair will try to break the CNT as a force within the workplace.

As well as demanding the full reinstatement of the sacked worker the CNT is demanding an end to short term contracts and part time working. In pressing their demands, the strikers have not only received the support of the CNT membership across Spain; the anarcho-syndicalist international, the IWA, has also organised two international days of action in support of the Zaragoza strikers, and further such events are planned.
Full details can be found, in Spanish, at the CNT Ryanair Zaragoza blog.

Returning to Britain, the campaign's latest action was a protest at Liverpool John Lennon Airport against the treatment of pilots by the company. In particular Paul Ridgard, a pilot who committed suicide. Liverpool Solfed joined the action, and once again interviewed John, who was more than happy to explain the issues.

Liverpool Solfed is currently making enquiries about how to make the campaign against Ryanair go continental, drawing upon the CNT's previous experience in this area.

Such problems are rife across workplaces. Beyond the last strongholds of the reformist unions, the bosses get free reign to abuse and exploit workers almost without regard. Ryanair is just a single example, and in many workplaces the weak employment law that we do have might as well not exist.

This highlights the continuing need for working class organisation and the road down which non-unionised workers are led. It needs to be challenged, and Solfed are one of the organisations doing that through our workplace organiser training and our wider campaign against casualisation. It is definitely a positive that we are not alone in doing this, and the actions and commitment of the Ryanair Don't Care campaign is to be commended.