Serving Ryanair Captain Imelda Comer wrote an open letter to the company’s management arguing against their claims that Ryanair pilots union, or the EERC, is not an internal group within the company.

Ryanair’s disputes with its crew came to spotlight after two rounds of flight cancellations in September 2017. The company eventually offered the pilots higher pay rates, but resists acknowledging the newly formed union.

Here's the copy of a letter:

I am a Ryanair Captain and I write to you as a conduit to enable constructive engagement between Ryanair management and the pilot body. The aim of this letter is to provide the company with a Ryanair pilot as you have requested, through which a constructive dialogue can take place.

As you know, the pilots issued a number of correspondences to the company, endorsed by the ERCs in 60 bases. Regrettably the company has either ignored these or claimed they were not from legitimate Ryanair pilots. I wish to confirm they were from the European ERC group which is exclusively made up of Ryanair pilots from several countries. The interim EERC represents the views of the collective pilot body, which wishes to proactively and constructively engage with the company to help resolve the current difficulties that continue to weigh on all of us.

The pilots’ representatives are concerned about their security when they reveal their identities, in a representative context which you have set yourself against. This point was addressed in the interim EERC’s last letter to you. I restate them here for clarity:

  1.  No legal action will be taken against any EERC member in the performance of their representative work.
  2.  There will be no scheduling of additional line checks or simulator checks. Any unexpected negative outcome from routine checks will be subject to independent scrutiny/adjudication by an independent third party acceptable to both parties.
  3.  Any disciplinary action, taken for any reason, will be handled by an independent third party, acceptable to both parties.
  4.  Representatives’ base will not change unless requested by the pilot involved.
  5.  Rostered hours per month for representative’s will not be less than their average monthly hours from the year prior to becoming a representative, or the average hours for their base (whichever is higher). In the meantime it will be pointed that the EERC or reps will not suffer any kind of continuous unfavourable duties.
  6.  Ryanair will provide rostered time off (paid) to engage in representative activities on behalf of Ryanair pilots.
  7.  EERC members will NOT be assigned unpaid leave, unless they request it.
  8. These conditions will apply for at least one year following the cessation of being a Representative.

If the company provides written assurances as to the security of pilot representatives, they will also be happy to disclose their identities and fully engage in meaningful and constructive discussions to resolve the outstanding company difficulties.

I would also like to address the concerns of my colleagues in the whole pilot body. The interim EERC is a group of Ryanair pilots, formed on an interim basis, to provide a channel through which the whole pilot body can speak with one voice to the company. On the 22nd September, 60 bases signed two letters addressed to the company, setting out the pilots’ requirements to address the ongoing difficulties. Again for clarity, I restate them here:

  1. Permanent local contracts – following national laws and rights.
  2. Co-ordination between national and regional pilot teams – recognised as negotiating partners.
  3. Benchmarking of conditions with regional competitor airlines to stem the exit of pilots.
  4. New contracts, properly negotiated, by 01 Jan 2018 – with agreed interim arrangements if negotiations are delayed.
  5. Pilots are pilots – they will therefore have their own professional assistance for any negotiations.
  6. Pilots want Ryanair to succeed and thrive. They want to minimise cancellations and will support as much as possible every effort to achieve this stability.
  7. Pilots will surrender some of their leave to help resolve the current problems, but only in the context of the changes outlined above.

The interim EERC members have listened carefully to the wide range of discussions taking place in the whole group, while also carrying out our flying duties the same as every other pilot. This is clearly challenging for all of us. When the company insists that it will only engage with its own pilots, we have respected that view. However, it is also quite obvious that your company view immediately places all pilots at a significant disadvantage, creating an unreasonable imbalance in any such interactions. Your insistence on only negotiating with pilots, and only dealing with individual bases, is clearly not in the interests of pilots. Your continued insistence on both approaches move everyone further away from a sustainable solution. It may deliver you a short term fix in a handful of bases, but it will not resolve the deep seated issues that have been imposed on pilots over the last ten years, and have cumulatively given rise to our most recent difficulties.

We are pilots first, while your managers are managers first. Negotiating is the primary job of managers – safe flying is a pilot’s primary job. In addition, all our time is taken up with flying duties, leaving no time to properly prepare for or carry out an additional task that you insist only pilots must fulfil. In addition, the complexity of pilots living, operating and moving around Europe exposes us to legal, financial, income tax and social insurance considerations that we do not have expertise in. For these reasons we have reserved the right to seek any assistance we require to support us in our interactions and negotiations with the company. We believe this is an entirely reasonable position for the pilot body and its representatives at every level to adopt.

To date, the company has refused to acknowledge the right of the pilots to engage as a collective group. The company insists that you will only engage one base at a time. I respectfully suggest that this approach has failed the company, as evidenced by the shortage of pilots that has led to the cancellations crisis. It has also failed the pilots, as evidenced by the departure of so many colleagues and the short average length of pilots serving in Ryanair, as reported in Ryanair’s annual reports.

It is regrettable that the company’s response to date shows that you have not listened to the pilots’ voice so far. Ryanair’s way of interacting with its pilots is not in line with the normal practices of any of the companies to which our colleagues have gone in increasing numbers. This needs to change to enable progress to be made.

The offers that you have made to bases in the last 48 hours have not been negotiated with anyone; do not reflect any of the concerns or requirements set out by the pilots; are confusing and in some places potentially misleading; and do not cover all pilots in Ryanair. This indicates that you have so far missed the point of what pilots require, in order to help resolve the company difficulties. The old model has brought us to the current difficulties. Repeating the mistakes of the past will not help anyone to move beyond or resolve these difficulties to find future solutions.

For these reasons, properly informed negotiations need to take place, in which the issues and concerns of all parties can be fully discussed, in the interests of the earliest resolution for our passengers, our pilots and the whole company.

I have been requested by my colleagues, both inside and outside our interim EERC group, to communicate this message to you, and to offer earliest negotiations in which pilots and their advisors can sit as equals at the table, to find the best solutions to enable all of us to look forward to a brighter future.