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Reportage. Italian labor unions have joined forces to tackle Ryanair’s union-busting behavior, with walkouts and lawsuits.

With strikes and lawsuits, unions declare war on Ryanair

Strikes, lawsuits and inspections. Ryanair’s granite wall is slowly beginning to crumble. And even in Italy, the unions are getting involved.

For now it’s a “divided march to strike together,” but it all started with a joint letter sent to the Ministry of Transport by the unions (Filt Cgil, Fit Cisl, Uilt, Ugl) and the independent workers (Anpav, flight crew, and Anpac, pilots) on Oct. 3. The letter asks for a “comparison of employment contracts and application of the rules by foreign companies to onboard personnel.” The target of the reprimand is clear: the O’Leary system, which has never responded to any communication from the unions.

The meeting with Minister Delrio will take place on Tuesday, and here the unions are aiming for “a change in climate that will serve to round Ryanair up,” a trade unionist said confidently.

A “change” that seems to have already occurred, with the European Court of Justice ruling to impose the use of the corresponding national legislation, instead of Irish laws, on Ryanair employees in the various countries. A “change” that occurred in Italy with the opening of a dispute by the INPS [Italian National Institute of Social Security] for contributions unpaid to employees. The Labor Ministry is expected to send inspectors soon to the Milan and Bergamo headquarters.

A “change” that on Friday marked a real escalation of union initiatives, but they all collided with the biggest problem: In Italy, none of Ryanair employees ever registered with the union simply because their recruitment letter warned of termination if the employee ever did.

The initiative that was most echoed by the media was the proclamation of the strike by Fit Cisl — the third announced after the two failed attempts in 2016. “The mass pilot drain from Ryanair obviously did not help the Irish company to understand that something must change, starting with respect for the rights of workers. That is why we’re declaring a four-hour flight crew strike, starting on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.,” explains Secretary Emiliano Fiorentino. “The umpteenth cooling procedure ended negatively, which prompted us to declare the strike.”

The action of the Filt Cgil is legal and articulated. The Cgil Transport Federation filed an appeal with the Labor Court in Bergamo requesting compliance with the European directive protecting trade union action in companies. On Nov. 22, the first hearing will be held. In addition, Filt will present in Lombardy a lawsuit for anti-union behavior (Article 28) with respect to Ryanair’s recruitment letter.

“We will demand respect for the protection of the union and the dignity of work,” explains National Secretary Nino Cortorillo.

If Ryanair argues, as they likely will, that it respects the law, the unions are ready to appoint their own representatives among the workers. It would be the beginning of unionization in Ryanair. A small revolution.

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