History was made this week when representatives of IMPACT, and its members in Ryanair, sat down to talks with company management at 5pm on Tuesday 19th December. It was the first time that Ireland’s most high-profile anti-union company had ever sat around a table with representatives of organised labour. Less than a week before, Ryanair management was still saying it would never happen.
However, the practical significance of this historic moment remained unclear as this bulletin went to print. The union was still awaiting written confirmation that Ryanair was recognising the union, despite the company having told its pilots, the media – and, more significantly, the stock exchange – that it would.
The seemingly Damascene conversion took place early on Friday 15th December, when a stunned Ireland woke up to hear Ryanair spokespeople saying the company intended to recognise unions for the first time in its 33-year history. It followed years of effort by IMPACT and other unions to organise workers in the company and win negotiating rights.
IMPACT said the move could assist thousands of other workers who wanted independent workplace representation, but whose anti-union employers were encouraged and emboldened by Ryanair’s previous high-profile antipathy.
Earlier Ryanair staff, who are members of IMPACT’s pilots’ branch IALPA, had voted overwhelmingly to strike in pursuit of representation rights. Strike notice, served for 20th December, was subsequently suspended on foot of the company’s offer of both a meeting and full recognition of IMPACT and IALPA as representatives of pilots.
In a statement announcing the strike’s suspension, the union paid tribute to “the principled determination of Ryanair pilots,” which had made the breakthrough possible.
Company management was upbeat following the landmark meeting on Tuesday evening, though IMPACT expressed disappointment that the company had felt unable to underpin its declared intention to recognise the union with a written confirmation. The union gave management until today (Thursday) to respond to a set of proposals aimed at cementing normal bargaining procedures in the airline.
On the evening of 20th December, management emailed its pilots individually, saying it had “confirmed that we are recognising IMPACT for collective bargaining.” IMPACT was awaiting the company’s response to the union as this bulletin went to press.