Friday, November 4, 2011

Ryanair marketing stall ejected by students

Ryanair had to cancel a marketing event at the University of Manchester Students Union (UMSU) recently, after students dismantled their promotional stall in protest against the company’s record on the environment and workers’ rights.

Ryanair had advertised to hold a stall from 12pm to 3pm on Thursday 29 October 2011. However, at 12.30pm, a group of around nine students began dismantling the company’s banners and display boards and popping their promotional balloons. The Ryanair sales team soon left the building.

Students said the action was in anger at Ryanair’s disregard for the dangers of climate change by aggressively marketing cheap flights. They said the action was also taken in solidarity with disgruntled Ryanair workers. Last August, Ryanair worker John Foley staged a rooftop protest at Liverpool John Lennon Airport against the company’s anti-union activities and poor record on workers rights.

Physics student Catherine Redcliffe said, “Ryainair’s relentless pursuit of profit over all other concerns is trampling on workers’ rights and endangering our future at the same time. The aviation industry takes more money out of Northwest region than it puts in.”

Nonetheless, Ryanair seemed adamant that the day had been a success claiming that their staff were “about to pack up and head home” when the stall was disrupted. Spokesperson Stephen McNamara said, “Ryanair thanks the Plane Stupid clowns for once again turning a good promo into a great promo.”

However, students were bemused by this claim. Redcliffe explained, “Ryanair’s promotional stall was advertised on posters to last from 12noon to 3pm. The stall was dismantled at around 12.30pm after which their sales team left – so they lost out on most of the day. Their response is nothing unusual though. Everyone’s used to being lied to by Ryanair.”

Student Union climate change policies

The students, who did not claim to be from any particular group, were further angered at Students Union management for renting the space to Ryanair in the first place. Previously, students had voted that their union should campaign on climate issues and not have business relations with environmentally-damaging companies.

Geography student Marc Hempton, 20, said, “I wanted to show how Ryanair’s presence was a breach of our democratic process. This is my Union and our collective decision had been sidelined by unelected management. We shouldn’t allow environmentally damaging companies in our union where we have fought for positive policies on climate change and against relationships with unethical companies. I’m glad we sent them packing for the day.”

The day before, activists had petitioned UMSU management with letters signed by students to cancel the promotional event. Management refused, saying that Ryanair stall was bringing in extra cash.

Hempton added, “In some ways, this is a microcosm of problems regarding climate change and workers’ rights. Where making a quick profit is prioritised at the expense of people and our environment, it makes it harder to address these issues and creates bigger costs further down the line.”

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