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Dan White: You know things are bad when the Labour leader backs O'Leary

How could Coughlan not have seen this one coming? From the moment that O'Leary wrote to her, apparently offering to create 500 aircraft maintenance jobs at Dublin Airport, Coughlan's political antennae should have been on red alert.

Instead she has allowed O'Leary to make a complete fool of her. However, while there will be many who will derive infinite pleasure from Coughlan's plight, I can't help feeling that she isn't entirely at fault in this instance.

According to Ryanair, when Coughlan refused its request to deal directly with her rather than with the Dublin Airport Authority, it took part of the maintenance project overseas, establishing a 200-job facility at Glasgow.

But was Glasgow always part of the Ryanair strategy?

Certainly by establishing two separate maintenance facilities Ryanair can benchmark the two of them against one another.

It can force the two facilities to bid against one another for Ryanair maintenance contracts.

This will help the airline to keep its costs to a minimum.

Which is, of course, just how Ryanair likes it.

However, even if Ryanair's preference was always for two maintenance facilities rather than one, that still doesn't excuse Coughlan's apparent failure to respond to O'Leary's offer.

Yes it would have put the DAA's nose a mile out of joint but it would also have quickly exposed any two-timing on Ryanair's part.

Instead, Coughlan did what it is she seems to do best, absolutely nothing, allowing O'Leary to run rings around her.

Once again the Ryanair boss has demonstrated his utterly uncanny ability to gauge the public mood.

O'Leary is essentially hoping to use some of the former SR Technics facilities and staff at Dublin Airport.

SR Technics closed its Dublin Airport maintenance facility last year with the loss of 1,135 jobs. Just for good measure, he is adamantly refusing to deal directly with his old foe the DAA.

Back in the good old days, many SR Technics -- the former Team Aer Lingus -- workers could expect to earn close to €75,000 a year. Life will be very different for anyone who gets hired in the Ryanair facility. It will be lean and mean. Pay and conditions will be cut right back to the bone and as for trade unions, don't even think of them.

Which makes Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore's demand yesterday that Coughlan move heaven and earth to persuade Ryanair to change its mind all the more remarkable.

These will be relatively low-pay, non-union, hire-and-fire jobs with the feather bedding of yore but a dim and distant memory.

That a former trade union official such as Gilmore should be calling on the Tanaiste to secure these Ryanair jobs shows just how desperate the employment situation has become, something of which O'Leary is well aware.

In the harsh new economic reality Ryanair-type jobs are infinitely preferable to no jobs at all.


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