Sunday, 11 March 2012

An ASBO cannot stop international action against Ryanair

Tomorrow sees the beginning of an International Week of Action against Ryanair. Initiated by Liverpool Solidarity Federation in support of the relentless direct action campaign waged by John Foley, it will see pickets of numerous locations connected to the budget airline across the world. But the courts have tried to make sure that John has no part in any of it.

Liverpool Solfed supporting John Foley following his arrest for occupying the roof of Liverpool John Lennon Airport
On Tuesday, John appeared at Liverpool Community Justice Centre charged with unlawfully entering a football pitch on January 31. The court was told that, in handcuffing himself to a goalpost as Everton played Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary's favourite team Manchester City, he caused “harassment, alarm or distress” to fans. This clearly absurd charge provided Merseyside Police with the grounds to impose an interim ASBO on John which - unsurprisingly - covers the Week of Action and will be reviewed when his trial begins on 23 April.

According to the terms of the ASBO, John cannot visit any sports ground hosting an event to which the public has to pay to gain admission. He also cannot protest on high buildings or structures where he "may cause harm to himself, anyone dealing with the incident, or cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress by his actions."

There can be no doubt that the aim of this order is to prevent any further direct action protests, because they have been able to draw attention to his cause in a way that more conventional protests never could. It will also mean that Michael O'Leary and the other top names at Ryanair can sleep soundly knowing that events they are pouring money into will not be disrupted with the inconvenient message about their exploitation of workers.

However, John Foley is but one man. His work on the Ryanair Don't Care Campaign has been tireless, but the whole point of the International Week of Action is to escalate it and bring the strength of much broader solidarity. The Solidarity Federation supports the action, as does the International Workers Association to which it is affiliated. No doubt, other anarchist and libertarian class struggle organisations will also take up the call. It is up to all of us, as opponents of the exploitation of workers - particularly in the horrendous fashion of "recruitment for termination" - to make sure that the message is heard and that Ryanair do feel the heat.

In case we need a reminder, this is the reason why;
Ryanair's current policy of “recruitment-for-termination” is part of the massive exploitation of young people who apply to work for the company. As it stands potential cabin crew have to pay a fee of 3000 euro through an agency to undergo training for Ryanair. As many as 60 are sacked at one time after this initial training period with up to 200 people a month losing their job. All those sacked lose the money they have paid out for training. There are 11 Ryanair cabin crew training courses already underway to end of March which gives you some idea of the amount of money Ryanair is making out of the “recruit-for-termination” scam.

Rynair target young people who are then based away from home to make it easier to pressurise and exploit. The day before being sacked a Ryanair supervisor tried to persuade John’s daughter, Sarah, to resign. If she had resigned the company would have charged her 200 euro the standard amount charged to all those staff who resign. After being sacked she requested a flight home but was told by the company that she was not eligible for a flight as she was no longer a employee of Ryanair. With no money to get to her home to Liverpool her parents had to travel to Dublin to collect her.

Those who survive the initial training period are put on a 12-month probationary period on a lower rate of pay than normal cabin crew and Ryanair pocket the difference-as much as £20 million per year. Pay in the first year can be as low as 520 Euro after stoppages, such as the 25 Euro charged for the uniform, are deducted.

Working conditions are no better, workers are expected to work 2 standby duties each week, one a Home Standby, lasting 11 hours for no pay and an 8 hour Airport Standby, for which 30 Euro is paid, working out at 3 Euro an hour after tax. Workers are also only paid for the time they are in the air. As one Ryanair worker noted:

"You only got paid for your time in the air. You didn't get paid for the 45-minute pre-flight briefing or while the passengers were boarding. My flight from Alicante was once diverted to Blackpool and we didn't get paid for the three hours while it was sent on to Liverpool”
If you are near to a location of strategic importance to Ryanair - an airport it flies from, a travel agent that promotes its packages, a recruitment fair or agency it uses to hire - join in with any planned pickets you can find. If you can't find one, organise it yourself! Leaflets and posters should be available to download from the Solfed website come Monday, but even a basic leaflet and signs with the main points on will get the message across.

If you are by the Cheltenham Festival, then I strongly urge you to help make sure that the Ryanair Chase does not go off without opposition. This is a cornerstone of the airline's self-promotion, and needs to be met with picketing, leafleting and if possible direct action. Again, if nothing is already planned for the event, feel free to take the initiative yourself.

If you aren't near to such a location, you can still phone, email and fax Ryanair to let them know that you oppose their practices. Pro forma letters of complaint should also be available as the week of action begins. Below are the easiest ways to contact Ryanair to complain:

Phone: +353 1 812 1212
Fax: +353 1 812 1676

More addresses and phone numbers can be found at here.

The courts and the police are trying to stop John Foley from continuing his campaign of protest and direct action. We must show them that he is not alone, and that this issue cannot be swept under the carpet by an Anti Social Behaviour Order. Fight recruitment scamming, and take action against Ryanair across the world this week.