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Spanish Airport Workers Go on Strike

Workers at Ryanair airlines and at easyJet are on strike, demanding their rights in the workplace.

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© European Cockpit Association (ECA)

Amid a global airline crisis, Spanish airline workers are on strike for almost 2 weeks.

Workers at Ryanair airlines, along with the unions Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) and Sindicato Independiente de Tripulantes de Tripulantes de Cabina de Pasajeros de Líneas Aéreas (SITCPLA), have gone on strike and plan to stay on strike until July 28. Nearly 450 easyJet cabin crew were called to strike over the weekend, as well as several dates over the next month.

The strike was called because there is no collective-bargaining agreement with the company. For several months, the agreement was being negotiated, but then the company left the negotiating table. The workers are demanding 22 vacation days and the application of occupational risk prevention regulations.

Further, Ryanair forces its flight attendants to open bank accounts in Ireland to receive their salary and to pay taxes in that country. Despite living and working in Spain, they don’t have access to Spanish healthcare.

According to the union USO, “Ryanair has again committed all kinds of illegalities during this strike: more workers on duty than a normal day, threats, coercion, scabbing between bases offering to pay three-hour cabs and even international scabbing, bringing Portuguese, Italian and also non-EU crew members, from Morocco or the United Kingdom, violating the right to strike.”

The employers have even gone so far as to impose fraudulent penalties against workers who joined the strike, inventing minimum service notifications that never reached the crew members. There are currently 50 workers summoned to disciplinary meetings.

For its part, the easyJet staff have been denouncing the company’s low salaries, which do not even reach the minimum wage.

The government’s has responded by demanding minimum services to both easyJet and Ryanair staff. They demand that airline workers maintain 67 percent and 80 percent of their staff working, which the union describes as abusive and illegal for violating the right to strike. In 2018 the Ministry of Public Works imposed during the Ryanair strike minimum services of 100 percent for domestic flights between the Peninsula and the islands, 59 percent on international flights, and 35 percent and 59 percent between peninsular cities.

Although governments often deny workers the right to strike, even governments that claim to be progressive, this ends up being especially strong in the transport and airline sector.

In 2010, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government militarized air traffic control, declaring a state of emergency before the air traffic controllers’ strike, with harsh penalties for 131 strikers, who ended up having to compensate the company AENA more than 13 million euros.

Despite all these difficulties, 40 percent of the Ryanair crew is on strike, resulting in 215 cancellations and 1,255 delays. At easyJet, this led to 26 cancellations and 185 delays. easyJet has convened negotiations for July 6 and 7. In the face of these advances, the workers remain neither passive nor naive, and they do not plan to end the strike until management responds to their demands.

Conflicts within the European airport sector are beginning to be felt more and more acutely. Workers at airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France have joined this struggle, and for several weeks now we have been witnessing strikes and all kinds of mobilizations. This comes after a massive strike by transport workers in England, as well as discussions of a railroad workers’ strike in France. This tenacity must be an example, and we must fight with organization so that it can be maintained and can spread to the rest of the sectors of the working class.

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