EU to ignore O'Leary call for air traffic strike block
The European Commission has said it won't interfere with the right of the bloc's air traffic controllers to go on strike, as Aer Lingus owner IAG and Ryanair gear up for a legal showdown to prevent such action from grounding thousands of flights and inconveniencing passengers and businesses.
IAG CEO Willie Walsh and Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said this week that they will submit a complaint to the European Commission in relation to strikes by air traffic controllers (ATC), which they said "represent the biggest challenge for our industry".
"They are destroying European air traffic and having a huge impact on consumers," said Mr Walsh.
He added: "It's a really frustrating cause of disruption that affects all airlines but in particular has a significant negative impact on Spain's tourism and economy.
"Continuous strikes by ATC staff in Marseille have a disproportionate impact on those airlines flying from Barcelona because they control flights over most of the Mediterranean airspace."
Mr O'Leary said the disruptions were "unacceptable", and called on governments and the European Commission to take "urgent and decisive action" to ensure ATC providers are fully staffed and that overflights are not affected when national strikes take place.
A European Commission spokesman said that workers have a "fundamental right" to strike, and that the executive arm of the EU hopes that "non-binding and non-legislative" guidelines will address the issue.
Those measures include early notification of strike action and protection of overflights.
"The commission is not questioning the right to strike, which is a fundamental right of workers," European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said.
"The commission cannot and will not adopt any measures regulating or limiting the right to strike," he added.
A4E, an airline industry body, has proposed a mandatory 72-hour individual notification period for employees wishing to strike, protection of overflights while ensuring it does not come to the detriment of local services, and a guarantee on minimum services to be provided.
IAG and Ryanair's complaint to the European Commission will argue that by not adequately protecting flights over France, EU law is infringed.
Regular strikes by French air traffic controllers are the cause of a third of flight delays in Europe.