Following an establishment of a trade union at Wizz Air in Ukraine last year, the company filed a lawsuit and challenged the registration of the union. Their union-busting effort failed recently when a Commercial Court in Kyiv declared the union lawful. Union activists who were fired after the union was created last year shared their story with us, describing the different tactics Wizz Air has used against them and why they persist.
“It’s now been almost a year since we formed an aircrew trade union in Kyiv in response to the illegal actions of the company’s management towards employees when COVID-19 quarantine measures were put in place in Ukraine. Right away, we were met with an aggressive anti-union campaign by management. It caught us by surprise, as unionising is not a particularly scandalous idea in Ukraine, it’s very normal to have a union in a workplace. Without even officially acknowledging the union’s establishment at the time, management started to threaten the base’s closure if unionising efforts continued and tried to persuade the employees that trade union membership will hurt them.
Four of us who were involved with the union were dismissed shortly after and were given the very popular explanation used by Wizz Air last year – COVID-19. A recent leak from one of last year’s management meetings clearly shows that this was just a convenient lie, as base captains were instructed to get rid of anyone who, in their eyes, was causing issues for the company. And we all know that unions are seen as a nuisance at Wizz Air.
Anti-union efforts escalated further in September 2020 when Wizz Air filed a lawsuit claiming that the union’s registration was unlawful. They tried to question the registration process in various ways, including by challenging the union’s name. In it, we use the name Wizz Air, which they claimed is illegal. That is not the case, as the company is not even registered in Ukraine but in Hungary.
With the help of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, we managed to address all their claims, and on 6 April 2021, the Commercial Court of Kyiv recognised the legal state of our union’s registration.
They tried to destroy the union, but we won.
Now, our fight continues. After the dismissals, we all started to fight these decisions in courts, and all our cases are still open.
In the meantime, we heard that local management is still trying to prove that there is no need for a union, that they’re being kinder to workers and doing charity work. Additional changes were introduced because of the leaked criteria for dismissals last year and subsequent internal pressure.
We need to remember that it was pressure from the union and the pressure coming from workers after the leak that made this happen. It proves once again that collective action and unions are essential to the well-being of workers.
This motivates us to keep up the fight.”