It’s a hard life being Michael O’Leary. Michael is best known for who he dislikes; politicians, disabled, employees who want to join a union, bolshie passengers and bloggers have all felt the sharp end of Mullingar’s most famous taxi-man’s tongue. Mick is back in the courts this week as he continues his anti-union campaign. His target once more is a Captain Goss. There’s history there already; a few years ago Captain Goss was in the courts with his employers because Goss was victimised when he tried to organise a union in Ryanair. As part of these proceedings Goss sought the jailing of O’Leary on grounds of contempt. However prison is hard enough so inmates in Mountjoy were spared the misery of O’Leary’s nonsense on that occasion. Today Captain Goss is back in court against Ryanair. Ryanair has disciplined him for putting election literature last December in staff pigeon holes. The election literature related to internal staff elections to elect staff member to a negotiating committee for which Goss was a candidate. It’s Ryanair’s view that this constituted an abuse as the pigeon holes were only for company business. But is not the election of a staff committee to negotiate with the management company business? Given that his main rival Aer Lingus recognise and negotiate with unions what’s the problem? Has the case more to do with style of management? Is it not the case that O’Leary believes that no one is going to tell him how to run the company in the interest of his shareholders, and that means regulators, unions, politicians or airport authorities? That’s what he thrives on and I suspect that many people like his style. Being anti-union is now popular in a key sector of enterprise. The economic slump is now seen as the environment to undo much of what has been achieved in my lifetime. Unions are seen as regulation and a brake on the economy and the entrepreneurial spirit that is needed to re-boot our economy. Partnership is now passé. ISME and IBEC want to roll back much of what was achieved on the basis of affordability; minimum wage, welfare, benefits, union representation. About a year ago I debated the minimum wage with an ISME rep on South East Radio and the audience reaction was strongly supportive of me. Its now at the point where workers rights are a luxury for the good times and the first thing to go when management screws up. I wonder now if the debate was held how the audience would react given how unemployment has rocketed? I sincerely hope that Captain Goss wins his case. Its at times like this that constitutional rights of association long established as the basis of union organisation need to upheld in this state and that companies need to be told that workers rights aren’t just what the company may decide to grant but are entitlements that every worker has regardless.
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