Ryanair says “no travel chaos”, despite failing talks with unions
Remember last summer’s travel misery as a wave of union strikes at Ryanair paralyzed hundreds of holidaymakers’ flights? The scenario is likely to repeat itself in the comings weeks, with staff walkouts now planned in Ireland, Britain, Spain and Portugal. Ryanair assures it expects minor disruption to operations, but the prospect of the two sides resolving their ongoing dispute is dim.
On August 8, 2019, members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), representing half of Ryanair’s UK-based pilots, voted in favor of industrial action, set to take place on August 22-23, and September 2-4. Multiple strikes at airlines and airports are already anticipated in the UK alone (British Airways, London’s Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) airports).
Following their British counterparts’ move, on August 9, a similar vote was carried out by some 180 of Ryanair’s directly-employed pilots in Ireland – members of the Irish pilot association (IALPA). The pilots, represented by the Fόrsa trade union, plan to stage a two-day strike on the same days as the airline’s UK-based flight crew – August 22-23.
BALPA expected to meet with Ryanair for mediated talks on August 15, 2019, but the airline insisted the union has to re-engage in the negotiations directly first, according to an agreement signed between the two parties in 2018, Reuters reports. Mediated talks with Fόrsa did take place in Ireland on August 14, 2019, but to no avail.
Although BALPA’s general secretary Brian Strutton expressed desire to resolve the dispute, it seems Ryanair is not giving in to the union’s demands. According to the union, it had filed a detailed claim of its members’ demands in March 2019 but since has seen no progress in negotiations with the airline.
The UK pilots’ list of demands includes pensions, loss of license insurance, maternity benefits, allowances, and a “fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure”. A similar proposal, which sought pay levels and structures that are “in line with sector norms” for Ryanair’s Irish-based pilots, was also submitted earlier this year by IALPA.
According to the union’s assistant general secretary Ian McDonnell, “Ryanair’s directly-employed Irish-based pilots are simply seeking pay levels that are common and competitive in the commercial airline sector, from a company that made a more-than-healthy profit of €1 billion last year.”
Ryanair strikes back
Responding to the collapsed talks with Fόrsa, Ryanair has called the union’s demands “unrealistic and unimplementable”, saying its pilots are already among the best paid workers in Ireland. The union is seeking pay increases of up to 101%, taking the current annual pay from €172,000 to over €347,000.
Ryanair says it has done “everything in its power” to avoid flight disruptions. “However, no company can concede to grossly unreasonable demands from its highest paid workers for a further pay increase of over 100% (when they already agreed and received a 20% pay increase earlier this year) at a time when the airline industry is in crisis,” the airline’s Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson said in an official statement.
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