Solidarity with Aer Lingus pilots – oppose demonisation and threats

By Sean Burns

Aer Lingus pilots have escalated their strike action in response to increased hostility from their bosses.

The announcement of the pilots’ work-to-rule led to the company having to cancel hundreds of flights. Work-to-rule means literally working your job to the letter of the contract – no more, no less. That this action prompted such disruption is testament to the understaffing Aer Lingus relies on. It clearly couldn’t function, or make its huge profits, without the good will of the pilots to do extra work. Rather than ensuring a fully staffed, operational service, Aer Lingus prefers to overwork and underpay its existing staff to ensure maxim profitability. 

Slander from Aer Lingus management 

Since the announcement of the work-to-rule Aer Lingus has gone on the offensive against the Pilots, as have other airlines. The airline has accused the pilots’ union of “blackmail”, repeating the same anti-union tropes we have heard for decades. The airline making hundreds of millions is good business, but workers asking for a cost of living pay increase is blackmail!  

The company has threatened to hold pilots “personally liable” for losses if they fail to fulfil their rosters before the strike action begins. Aer Lingus’s legal representatives have also written to each member of the IALPA executive committee this week threatening to issue proceedings in the High Court for alleged unlawful conduct regarding an alleged increase in pilot absence due to illness. Such threats are attempts to intimidate the workforce in advance of industrial action. They show that the company wishes to make an example out of the pilots and their union. Such attacks must be fought. 

There should be no illusions that Aer Lingus will negotiate in good faith. The announcement of strike action in response to these threats is a positive indication that the pilots won’t take this lying down. But the clock is ticking – the summer period is the most effective time to take industrial action for pilots. If Aer Lingus attempts to ride through the summer then the pilots bargaining power will be more limited. Now is the time to maximise the action. The strike action already announced should be used as a launch pad for further days of strike action. In the recent while, the strikes that have been most successful in the North and Britain have been short and sharp – with clear plans of escalating days of action. 

Broaden the struggle

If Aer Lingus and the other airline companies are successful in taking on the pilots’ union, it will signal to all employers that they should follow suit. This is why all workers need to support the pilots’ action. The pilots should not be left alone in their fight. Instead they should seek to link up with other workers both in the airports and beyond. 

Attempts have been made to pit the wider public against the pilots by grossly over exaggerating their basic rate of pay and emphasising the disruption to holidays. This should not be taken as a reason to minimise the amount of industrial action taken. Instead, it is an argument to expand the action. As we saw in Britian around the rail strikes, and the response to Mick Lynch’s leadership in particular, strike action which is disruptive to the public can be popular – if it is rightly connected to issues beyond the immediate pay claim. 

Every worker is experiencing the impact of the cost of living crisis. A victory for the pilots should give confidence to other workers that they too can take action and win. 

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