"The strike in Spain will not last, we will not sit down to talk with the unions"

Ryanair faces the biggest strike in its history denying the older "We don't think it will last over time," says Elena Cabrera, head of communications for the low-cost Irish airline in Spain and Portugal. There are five months of strikes ahead called by the USO and Sitcpla unions in the face of the conflict over the collective agreement for cabin crew in Spain. The spokeswoman for the low-cost airline reaffirms Ryanair's immobility against the unions in the face of the mobilization that she calls "minimal" and without support in the workforce.

Layoffs in the Ryanair strike: "I had been 13 and a half years and not one day had I missed work"

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Is Ryanair willing to sit down and talk with the unions to stop the strike? elDiario.es asks Cabrera in a telephone interview. "Nope". Why? “Why are we going to sit down with unions with which we have spent four years [hablando] totally unsuccessful?” asks back the Ryanair spokeswoman in the Iberian Peninsula.

The labor conflict that has led to a five-month strike, until next January 7, was unleashed when Ryanair signed an agreement with job improvements with CCOO (only for its members) behind the backs of the USO and Sitcpla unions, which had been negotiating the collective agreement for the cabin crew of the Irish airline since 2019. A negotiation, interrupted by the pandemic and very stuck, even despite the intermediation of the State, and which has been marked by great conflict between both parties and multiple sentences to the multinational.

"What cannot be is that they call us a strike in the middle of the negotiations, which is what happened," stresses the company's manager, who thus points to USO and Sitcpla for adhering to the strikes called in several European countries against the multinationalsuch as France, Belgium and Portugal. "It was not us who cut off relations, it was they who decided to go on strike in the middle of the negotiation," says Cabrera.

A few days later, Ryanair announced the agreement with bilateral improvements with CCOO, gestated in "six weeks", and USO and Sitcpla rose up against the company with several calls for strikes to demand that Ryanair keep the negotiation open for years on the collective agreement. Something that Ryanair rules out for the moment, since it does not even want to sit at the same table with both unions.

Battle over minimum services

This five-month strike follows strikes called in June and July. In addition to working conditions and rights, now the mobilization of USO and Sitcpla adds one more request to Ryanair: that it cancel the layoffs of eleven workers in the context of the strikes, which the unions reiterate violates the workers' fundamental right to strike. They also demand that the multinational close the "almost one hundred disciplinary files" open to crew members for this reason.

Ryanair confirms the eleven dismissals, but insists that they do not violate any rights. "We respect 100% the right to strike," says Elena Cabrera. "No one has been fired for being on strike but for absences from the job," justifies the directive, in what the multinational interprets as a breach of minimum services.

"No one has been fired for being on strike but for absences from the job," says the Ryanair spokeswoman about the eleven layoffs during the months of stoppages

These minimum services are the ones under discussion, since USO and Sitcpla accuse Ryanair of having demanded abusive assistance from the workforce these days, above the services decreed by the Government. The Labor Inspectorate is investigating the matter, as it has done in the past with various sanctions for the company.

The labor authority detected 26 labor offenses in the strikes by the ERE that Ryanair applied in Spain and that ended knocking down the National High Court for fraudulent, for instance. This court also condemned Ryanair for violating the right to strike in these stoppages and for encourage strikebreaking.

Vacation and minimum wage

Regarding the labor conditions and rights at stake in the strike, USO and Sitcpla assure that Ryanair denies basic rights in Spain such as "22 days of working holidays", "14 days of public holidays" and the guarantee of the minimum interprofessional salary, among others, something that the spokeswoman for the Irish airline denies.

"They say that the 22 working days per year of vacations are covered by Spanish law and no, the law speaks of 30 calendar days, therefore it is not the same," says Cabrera, who also defends working on holidays in an activity that continues to function on these dates, as is tourism. "However, if they have to work on a holiday, which they know in advance, they pay extra as in other sectors," continues the directive. “There are an average of nine working holidays out of these 14 and many crew members ask to work more, for that extra pay,” he adds.

The person in charge of the company also strongly rejects the union complaints of workers who do not get to receive the legal minimum (SMI), due to so-called "zero hour" contracts, which guarantee a schedule to employees. In USO they have denounced this practice, showing a contract as an example, who has been able to consult this medium. Elena Cabrera insists that “all crew members have a base [salarial]which is the minimum established in Spain, and a variable”, which places Ryanair salaries “in the average of the rest of the companies, not only low cost.

Regarding the complaints of Ryanair's threatening letters to workers on medical leave, which this medium has published in this strike and in the past, the person in charge of the company in the Iberian Peninsula responded that "she cannot talk about particular issues".

Ryanair now denies the representativeness of unions

The Irish airline justifies its refusal to negotiate in the face of the current strikes because, now, it denies the representativeness of both unions, USO and Sictpla. Ryanair says that they are "minority" and assures that it is in talks with CCOO, which it considers "majority". "The fight that USO and Sitcpla are making is not for the workers, it is for their own survival, because they are going to be left without representation and every day they are losing more and more members," says the Ryanair board.

The issue is that there is no legal representation of the workers in the company, because elections have never been held for this purpose, so in reality there are no unions with more or less representation.

CCOO is the majority in the airline sector, as the union organization explained in the signing of the agreement with Ryanair, but not in Ryanair. Instead, USO and Sitcpla were endorsed in the assemblies that were convened among the workforce in 2019 to designate the unions that would negotiate the collective agreement for crew members in Spain. In the voting, almost 60% of the workers' census voted and it was a majority support for both organizations, without any other union appearing for that purpose.

In 2021, Ryanair did consider both representative union organizations to negotiate the agreement, in light of the minutes of the negotiating table, but now it has changed its mind.

Cabrera defends the ability to reach agreements of other unions in Europe and CCOO in Spain. "In six weeks we have reached one with the CCOO, in which there are already hundreds of workers," answers Elena Cabrera. Hundreds? How many in total? “I can't say,” says the company spokeswoman. "Obviously, the free affiliation to the unions is totally private on the part of the company's workers," says Cabrera.

In CCOO, to queries from elDiario.es, they assure that they cannot provide updated data of affiliates in the multinational at this time. For its part, in USO they award CCOO a minority representation in the companyespecially before the pact with Ryanair, although it is increasing due to the signing of the new agreement with improvements by some workers.

Looking ahead to the next days of strikes, the airline expects a "minimal" incidence. In the past, some flights have been canceled, but Elena Cabrera warns that they represent a "minimum" percentage of the total operated and that, in addition, "they are not all due to the strike", as the conveners point out, but to the situation of chaos in several airports that is being experienced this summerremember.

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