SIPTU says O'Leary is trying to mislead public over dispute


SIPTU claimed yesterday that Ryanair's chief executive, Mr Michael O'Leary, is trying to mislead the public on the issues at the centre of the continuing dispute when he broke his silence to talk to newspapers and on radio. Mr O'Leary had not made any public comment since the start of the dispute on January 9th.

Yesterday, after Mr O'Leary talked to Pat Kenny on his RTE radio show, he gave separate interviews to newspaper journalists.

A SIPTU spokesman said that the dispute would remain a live issue. A meeting of unions in the aviation sector unanimously agreed on Monday to consult their members on the most effective means of supporting Ryanair baggage-handlers. He said he was aware that a number of actions were planned. However, the only way to solve the dispute was by dialogue.

In a statement yesterday in response to Mr O'Leary's public statements, SIPTU said that, despite clear evidence that over 220 flights listed in its official winter schedule had not operated since the strike began, Mr O'Leary continued to insist this was not the case. He would also have people believe there were no delays.

"On the latter he was rudely put right as he spoke on air when Kenny reported that two customers had rung in and challenged his account over recent delays in Britain lasting in one case up to four hours," it said.

While Mr O'Leary attempted to argue that he was in fact neutral on the issue of union recognition, Mr Kenny mentioned the US situation, where a majority in a grade would in effect deliver recognition. Mr O'Leary said he would have difficulty with defining a body of workers, SIPTU said.

"On the numbers involved in the dispute, again Mr O'Leary is perfectly aware that there are not 168 people working as baggage-handlers in Ryanair. There are 59 employed in this grade," it stated.

At the end of last year all 59 baggage-handlers approached SIPTU and sought to be represented professionally in their negotiation with Ryanair on their very low pay. They also sought to have proper health and safety procedures introduced.

"The body of workers who began industrial action ultimately numbered approximately 50. This reduced to 38 over four weeks of concerted pressure carried out in the privacy of the baggage hall. That's a clear majority in the grade in industrial terms on either side of the Atlantic," the statement continued.

These workers wanted to continue to work in the company and had always been and continued to be loyal to it, despite everything. For that matter SIPTU recognised the contribution Ryanair had made and expected to make in the future.

"Those in the dispute had behaved with enormous dignity and courage in the face of the extraordinary odds being faced down by extremely wealthy and influential individuals on a daily basis who have tried everything to undermine their straightforward wishes," the union said.

The "one-sided" broadcast reached a pinnacle with Mr O'Leary attempting to make his case unchallenged on the airwaves, having refused to do so before any of the appropriate agencies in the State, SIPTU claimed.

Mr O'Leary had argued that not only did the baggage-handlers get paid better than their counterparts because they worked harder but that SIPTU had misled everybody all the way. "Again what a pity that the lads themselves chatted with other workers in the airport and were shown their pay slips," the SIPTU statement said.