August 2012        

Ryanair continues to ride roughshod

While it is not long since the privatisation of the Irish state and the sale of its people to the EU, a new wave of privatisation is raising its ugly head. The sell-out of public assets has been accelerated by the increase in tempo of Ryanair’s attempt to buy out the rest of Aer Lingus.
     The move, which would be another step towards handing over the property of the Irish people to greed-driven and speculative executives, would put Aer Lingus workers in further uncertainty, under the oligarch-like rule of Michael O’Leary.
     Ryanair, which for years has been governed in the interest of amassing the most profit regardless of the negative effect such a policy has on workers and the public, has a long list of anti-worker offences. Its drive to maximise earnings has left countless routes cut, a major disadvantage to the public and to local employment. Such policies have left Ryanair workers victim to constant uncertainty regarding their future employment.
     When Ryanair, in its early days, tried to deter workers from becoming unionised, they were met with stern opposition from pilots, who rejected pay cuts and tried to organise a resistance to the tyrannical measures being imposed by the airline’s leadership.
     This democratic opposition to the Thatcherite-type crimes Ryanair was committing was met with severely undemocratic actions. These workers were “outsourced” by pilots from other European countries who were willing to work under the severe anti-worker conditions at Ryanair.
     Ryanair is using this time of economic depression as an opportunity to mistreat workers and maximise income as a result. It is cutting up to two hundred new workers a month, with little or no grounds for dismissal, and forcing new recruits to work on probationary low wages, and to purchase their own uniforms. Its “you’re lucky to have a job” outlook is not acceptable and has no place standing over any worker in this country, or any other for that matter.
     The temporary employment offered by Ryanair gives workers just enough time in a job to lose their entitlements to social welfare, an arduous process they must then repeat when their underpaid and short stint at the airline comes to a shuddering end.
     This policy also helps the state as it reduces the rate of unemployment statistically. This is, of course, only on paper, but it allows the Government to minimise the appearance of mass unemployment.
     Ryanair is using its connections with national governments and with the media to sugar-coat its operations and to hide its many wrongdoings. Workers who pose any challenge to the airline are liable to receive punishing shifts and eventually be forced out of their job.
     Aer Lingus has its own problems—that cannot be denied. However, if we hand over what’s left of the people’s stake in the national airline (which is minute) we will give Ryanair full power to exact the same anti-worker violations on many more workers who are now employed with Aer Lingus. We will also be handing over, at a tiny price, the assets of the Irish people to an uncaring and profit-obsessed company.
     The flotation of the national airline in 2006 was a direct attack on everyone in this country. The marginal 25 per cent still held by the Irish people leaves them in a powerless position. This 25 per cent, though, is still better served in the hands of the public than in Michael O’Leary’s.
     Ryanair has said of its most recent takeover attempt that it “does not need the acceptance of the Irish government to be successful.” This is a remarks that sums up the complete lack of respect Ryanair has for the Irish public and Irish workers.

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