This morning news broke that the French air traffic controllers’ strike had been called off. Here is possibly one of the only places outside the Union’s website you’ll see someone arguing in print that they were dead right to be on strike.
1. Because the media are not telling us why they were on strike. The first warning sign was the fact that the media were ignoring what is obviously the most important question: why did the strike happen? The radio coverage was the usual rubbish about how many people had been delayed or disrupted, without a word about why the workers had gone on strike in the first place.
The Irish Times managed to talk about how many flights were cancelled and how many people were delayed, what the “mood” was like at Dublin airport, what Ryanair’s checkout desks looked like at this moment and what they had looked like earlier…
This went on and on for a whopping 400 words before we got a terse little sentence about why they were on strike. Then the Irish Times immediately buried this sentence under two paragraphs quoting Ryanair bosses arguing that air traffic controllers should not be allowed to strike at all.
Anyone who’s ever been forced to go on strike because of a threat to their rights and interests knows that this is the way the news almost always presents strike action, and will see this warning sign.
2. Because the air traffic controllers were on strike for all the right reasons. Although from reading the media coverage you’d think the air traffic controllers were only on strike for fun, they were actually on strike in protest over cutbacks that would prevent them from doing their job properly. If they can’t do their extremely stressful and difficult job properly, then your flight is more dangerous.
3. Because workers’ rights are more important than my holiday plans. If my holiday is delayed, that’s bad. But my holiday is not as important as what will be decided in a strike: the pay you receive or the conditions you endure for years to come.
If you want to fly somewhere, you can’t get there at all without the labour of every worker in the airport and on the plane. If you want to fly, then the rights and interests of the people who make this happen are the first, not the last, thing you should think about.
Flights do not happen without workers. If they want to withold their services to get a better deal, then you’d better be on their side. Because who cares if you’re delayed, because without those workers you couldn’t go anywhere at all.