When a man handcuffed himself to the goalpost during Everton’s premier league match with Man City, little was known about his cause. In 2008, John Foley’s daughter was working as an air stewardess for Ryanair. Her contract was suddenly terminated during a shift, leaving her stranded abroad with no money and no way to get home. It soon became clear that this was happening to a significant number of Ryanair’s cabin crew before their probationary period had finished.  The airline, however, were still demanding a €3,000 training fee off these former employees, earning Ryanair a tidy profit out of sacking staff.

John began a direct action and information campaign against Ryanair, which has included gatecrashing its 2011 AGM and staging a protest on the roof of Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Ryanair’s management all know John by name and his presence is anticipated at events involving the airline. Ryanair has also been logged visiting the campaign’s website on a regular basis. Catalyst spoke to John about the campaign.

Can you tell us briefly when the campaign started and why you set it up?
The Ryanair Don’t Care campaign was set up on 26th November 2008 to inform young students about the dangers of working as Probationary Cabin Crew at Ryanair. I have aimed to do my upmost to inform others what can happen at a young people working for a capitalist bully like Ryanair.

Three years on, what motivates you to carry on campaigning against the airline?
My main motivation is stopping young students joining Ryanair as Probationary Cabin Crew as I know the abusive, profit-driven practises of the airline towards these young students damages them forever. This motivates me to carry on campaigning against Ryanair week by week, month by month, year by year.

What kind of activism have you done against Ryanair?
In the last three years, my direct action protests have included running on the field of play with a banner at the England ashes cricket test match 2009, a roof top protest at the Ryanair  cabin crew training camp in London 2009. Last year, I staged a roof top protest at Liverpool Crown Plaza Hotel 2010 were Ryanair held a recruitment day. This year, I did a roof-top protest at John Lennon Airport and climbed up the RTÉ radio mast in Dublin and placed a 14-ft banner highlighting exploitation by Ryanair. During the company’s AGM this year, I got access to the room and interrupted the meeting, even though police and 5 extra guards were in place. Peaceful and Direct Action protests will continue in 2012.

What sort of support have you received?
I get a lot of information and support from pilots and cabin crew staff. I can’t say too much regarding help from Ryanair staff I know the management keep an eye on everything I put into the public domain. I cannot thank SolFed enough for their support and help in spreading the word.

Finally, what would do want the campaign to achieve in the end?
My end goal comes in two parts. One is for shareholders to sack the whole board at Ryanair and for the airline to adopt a different employment, recruitment and termination module, without the abuse. I want Probationary Cabin Crew to be treated with respect and dignity. Secondly, I want all the people in authority in aviation, as well as the Irish and UK governments and others, to be named and shamed for turning a blind eye to this injustice.

To read more about the Ryanair Don’t Care campaign visit: ryanairdontcarecrew.blogspot.com

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