Spanish airport workers go on strike

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In the midst of a global airline crisis, Spanish airline workers have been on strike for almost 2 weeks.

Ryanair airline workers, 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 remain on strike until 28 July. Nearly 450 easyJet cabin crew were called to strike over the weekend, as well as on several dates over the following month.

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

In addition, Ryanair obliges its flight attendants to open bank accounts in Ireland to collect their salary and pay taxes in this country. Although they live and work in Spain, they do not have access to Spanish health care.

According to the USO union, “Ryanair again committed all sorts of illegalities during this strike: more workers on duty than on a normal day, threats, coercion, strikebreakers between bases offering to pay three-hour taxis and even international strikebreakers, bringing in Portuguese, Italian but also non-European crew members, Morocco or the United Kingdom, violating the right to strike.

Employers even went so far as to impose fraudulent penalties on workers who joined the strike, inventing minimum service notifications that never reached crew members. There are currently 50 workers summoned to disciplinary meetings.

For its part, the staff of easyJet denounces the low wages of the company, which do not even reach the minimum wage.

The government responded by demanding minimum services from easyJet and Ryanair staff. They demand that airline workers keep 67% and 80% of their staff at work, 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% for domestic flights between the peninsula and the islands, 59% on international flights and 35% and 59% between the cities of the peninsula.

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

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

Despite all these difficulties, 40% of Ryanair’s crew is on strike, resulting in 215 cancellations and 1,255 delays. At easyJet, this resulted in 26 cancellations and 185 delays. easyJet has called negotiations for July 6-7. Faced with these advances, the workers remain neither passive nor naive, and they do not consider ending the strike until management responds to their demands.

Conflicts within the European airport sector are beginning to be felt more and more. The workers of airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways or Air France have joined this struggle and for several weeks we have been witnessing strikes and mobilizations of all kinds. It comes after a massive strike by transport workers in England, as well as talk of a strike by railway workers in France. This tenacity must be exemplary, and we must fight with organization so that it is maintained and can be extended to the rest of the sectors of the working class.

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