The strike at Cityjet Handling in Dublin Airport is entering its fourth month. In all of that time, the company has not lifted a finger to resolve the dispute. Yet at the same time, it was willing to spend four days in the High Court, at a cost of tens of thousands to take out an injunction against striking workers and other airport shop-stewards to prevent action taking place.
By Dublin airport worker
The background to the dispute lies in the company's low pay, anti-union agenda. Established in 2000, Cityjet Handling entered Dublin Airport to win 30% of the ground handling business. To do this they have been relying on low pay and doing everything to keep the union out.
Through cheap labour they began underbidding for contracts. Paying their staff on average 30% less than the airport average for such employment, with practically no shift pay, an insulting sick leave scheme and the most appalling working conditions, they could use these workers to underbid the unionised companies.
Determined work by a number of individuals saw a majority of workers sign up to SIPTU, in order to address their pay and conditions, but the company refused to recognise the union or deal with the issues. The resolve of these workers has been an inspiration for all who have had the privilege of assisting them. It is now imperative that other airport workers make a stand on this issue.
Implications for all airport workers
Cityjet Handling management have clearly no intention of settling this dispute. They have adopted the stubborn attitude of Ryanair and clearly decided that if they hold out long enough they will starve the strikers into giving up.
This dispute has far reaching implications for other airport workers. Already the low pay anti-union mantle of Cityjet Handling is being copied by others. Pay freezes and massive changes in work practises are being demanded by other companies. Relatively good jobs are being undermined and standards being dragged down to a new low.
Many workers are correctly critical of the hesitancy of SIPTU to organise effective solidarity action. In the last few weeks, official action to black everything touched by Cityjet Handling has being going on. This has inconvenienced UPS, Aer Arann, Air France and Cityjet, but it needs to be stepped up.
The legacy of years of bad leadership by the union at the airport is being felt. Every company has been involved in industrial action and those who argued for united action vilified and slandered. A battle needs to be waged to redevelop the union and the ideas of basic trade unionism. A heavy price is being paid for the Ryanair debacle. However, using criticisms of SIPTU, no matter how justified, as an excuse for inactivity cannot continue.
Already a number of strikers and shop-stewards from other airport companies have been brought to court and jailed for a number of hours for organising solidarity action as part of this dispute. That determination must be supported by others. Over the coming weeks the action will be stepped up. It is up to all workers in the airport to make a stand in support of the Cityjet Handling strikers. Otherwise they will be next.
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