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The News Line: Feature Ryanair cabin crew win historic union recognition agreement!
Unite general secretary LEN McCluskEy addressing a meeting of striking BA cabin crew – Unite will now represent cabin crew at Ryanair
TRADE union Unite has signed a historic union recognition agreement with Ryanair, which is infamous for fighting to stop the unionisation of its workforce.

This represents a major victory for the Ryanair workers and a defeat for the Ryanair management who only conceded after strikes loomed amongst pilots and cabin crew in country after country. Ryanair’s UK cabin crew will, for the first time ever, have a union on their side providing representation and negotiating pay, hours and holidays after Unite signed the historic recognition agreement with the airline.

The recognition agreement covers around 650 directly employed cabin crew operating out of Ryanair’s UK bases at Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London Stansted, Luton, Manchester and Prestwick airports.  It secures full consultation rights and collective bargaining for UK cabin crew.

Three Unite representatives who will form the negotiating committee will be given paid rostered time off to fulfil their union duties in representing Unite members at the low cost airline. Unite represents over 25,000 cabin crew working for major airlines operating out of the UK and will now be seeking to secure similar agreements covering the remaining Ryanair cabin crew who are indirectly employed to work for the airline via employment agencies. 

Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘This is a historic agreement and a significant step by Ryanair. ‘For the first time ever Ryanair’s UK cabin crew will have a recognised union in their corner to deal with workplace issues and collectively bargain on pay. ‘I’d urge all UK based Ryanair cabin crew to join Unite and be part of one the biggest trade unions in the world representing airline workers.

‘I would like to thank all those involved in securing this agreement which shows what can be achieved by patient, determined negotiation. ‘Over the coming days and weeks Unite will be seeking similar agreements with the employment agencies which indirectly employ the remainder of Ryanair’s UK cabin crew. ‘Unite looks forward to building a positive relationship with Ryanair that benefits passengers and workers alike.’

Meanwhile, Unite has called for urgent government intervention in the construction industry after figures published by the ONS on Monday revealed that the industry contracted by 3.4 per cent in the three months to April.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘The government’s failure to provide proper support to construction has resulted in growth in the industry first stalling and now dropping. ‘The government needs to establish a coherent infrastructure plan which establishes long-term projects throughout the UK, to benefit all regions.

‘Construction is a key part of the economy and a further contraction in the sector will be bad news for the UK’s economic performance. ‘For too long we have seen a two speed construction industry with London and parts of the south east booming and the rest of the UK never having recovered from the 2008 crash.

‘A sensible infrastructure plan is vital for the long-term health of construction and with the correct government policies should benefit other industries including steel, which also urgently needs central intervention and support. ‘Construction urgently needs a shot in the arm as new orders are plunging (down 4.6 per cent for three months).

‘Continuing Brexit uncertainty and the fallout from Carillion’s collapse is destroying confidence in the industry, with projects being delayed or cancelled. ‘We also urgently need the government to introduce policies which will end the “race to the bottom” it is quite clear that cut-throat tendering on projects is making an already bad situation worse.’

The oil and gas industry has also been hit hard by the deepening economic crisis. Tommy Campbell, Unite’s regional officer and chair of the Offshore Co-Ordinating Group, gave evidence yesterday to the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster on the future of the oil and gas industry. The union has repeatedly criticised offshore oil and gas companies for using the recent downturn to impose regressive working practices across the North Sea.

The industry moved quickly to cut pay and holiday entitlement and increased shift rotas following a sharp drop in the price of oil.  The price of a barrel of oil fell from between $110 and $120 during 2011-2014 to around $25 a barrel in early 2016. More than 160,000 direct and indirect offshore jobs were lost between 2014 (463,900 jobs) and 2017 (302,200 jobs) as a result of the downturn.

Oil and Gas UK estimate that the sector has seen revenues fall by more than £10 billion from 2014 to 2016. However, the price of oil recently hit $80 a barrel for the first time in four years. It is projected by global analysts that over the coming months the price could hit $100 a barrel.

Unite called upon the UK and Scottish governments to strategically plan and coordinate in the sector in order to extract the up to 20bn barrels of oil and gas estimated in the UK Continental Shelf to ensure ‘maximum economic recovery’.

The union also repeated its calls for a national decommissioning strategy, as activity in Scotland over the next 10 years could be valued at between £8.3 billion and £11.3 billion, supporting peak employment of 16,925 to 22,775 jobs. 

In its submission to the inquiry Unite called for the following: • For the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) in cooperation with the UK and Scottish governments to initiative strategic public stakes in the offshore sector including infrastructure investment (e.g. pipelines) through discussions with government, industry and trade unions to facilitate co-investment;
 
• The UK and Scottish governments to use borrowing powers and national investment banks to enact the strategic public stakes to support the sector in dialogue with the OGA;  • The full devolution of employment law, full control over skills and apprenticeships.  • For the UK and Scottish governments in consultation with local authorities, industry and trade unions to initiate a comprehensive national decommissioning strategy;

• Further research to assess employment prospects, the skills gaps and shortages in the UKCS in the context of Brexit and the degree of transferability of skills to the emergent decommissioning sector.
Unite’s Tommy Campbell said: ‘The oil and gas sector continues to be a major employer and contributor to the UK economy – and it will be so for generations to come. It is a sector of national interest and security; it cannot be left to the vagaries of the market.
‘We have seen the devastating effects of this approach over the last few years and this can’t be allowed to happen again.

‘The UK and Scottish governments must step in now to strategically support the sector to ensure we secure maximum economic recovery of the potential $20 billion barrels in the North Sea, and to plan for the gradual phasing out of wells through a national decommissioning strategy.
‘Unite remains deeply concerned that across the UK there is no coherent plan to address the present and future challenges for the Oil and Gas sector.’
 
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