Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry TD say: Solidarity with Aer Lingus pilots

Text of Socialist Party leaflet

Last year operating profits at Aer Lingus soared by over 400% to €225 million. The parent company of Aer Lingus – IAG made €3.5 billion profit last year. Three members of the topexecutives at Aer Lingus earned the bulk of almost €2.8 million in core director remuneration paid by the airline in 2022. Yet they will not show basic respect to their staff by giving cost-of-living pay increase. Pilots’ basic pay hasn’t been raised since 2019 and many faced attacks on their terms and conditions during the pandemic. The company instead of giving a pay increase is attempting to bully and intimidate the workforce by issuing threats.

Today’s strike action sets down a clear marker that pilots will not be bullied by their employer. Aer Lingus have demonstrated that they will not negotiate in good faith. The various threats they have issued including the legal notices to the union’s executive point to them digging in. But nothing is won at the negotiating table that isn’t first won by showing your strength, including on the picket line.

Strike for respect

The summer period is the most effective time to take industrial action for pilots, but if Aer Lingus attempts to ride through the summer then it can be more difficult. Now is the time to maximise the action. The strike action already announced should be used as a launch pad for further days. Strikes in Britain and Northern Ireland that won the most were short and sharp, where workers fully mobilised their power. The cost of living pay claim is achievable but it will need to maximise the action.

A victory for the pilots is a victory for all workers

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. In reality all working-class people are in the same boat as the pilots. Two thirds are in the same financial position now as they were at the height of the cost-of-living crisis. Average rents for new tenancies in Dublin stood at €2,102 per month. Wages are not matching the increasing cost of living.

This is the largest industrial dispute of the 2020s so far. A victory for the pilots strike would be a victory for all workers. It would demonstrate that it is possible to organise and win against your employer. Strike action, even strike action which is disruptive to working-class people can be understood and supported. The rail strikes in Britain organised by the RMT, despite the disruption caused, were overwhelmingly popular because figures like Mick Lynch connected the immediate issues of their pay claim to the broader crisis that workers were facing. Such an approach can win support for the strike action.

Aer Lingus relies on the goodwill of its pilots just to function. Aer Lingus’s relentless pursuit of profit is hitting the quality of the service.Overworked and underpaid staff is a dangerous combination in an airline.

The establishment political parties have lined up behind the Aer Lingus bosses – emphasising the disruption to holiday plans. The Justice Minister even went as far to describe it as damaging the “reputation” of Ireland. Unfortunately, these arguments have been echoed by some in the ‘’opposition’’. What is really damaging to Ireland’s “reputation” is workers being forced into pay cuts and the utter lack of affordable homes. Aer Lingus should not have been privatised and in line with the need for more and better public utilities and services, Aer Lingus should be a publicly owned and,democratically run national utility.

The Socialist Party, and our public representatives like Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry TD,  sends its full support and solidarity to the pilots in their action.

All workers should support the strike action in Aer Lingus. A victory could open up the prospect of action and success for other workers. If the trade union members in other companies generally refused to supply or facilitate Aer Lingus, that would also help ratchet up the pressure. The trade union movement must not be found wanted in this struggle.

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