Wednesday 21 August 2019

Ryanair confirms 900 jobs at risk after O'Leary staff video warns of 'bad news'

Michael O’Leary apologised to staff in his video message. Photo: PA
Michael O’Leary apologised to staff in his video message. Photo: PA

Shawn Pogatchnik

Ryanair has confirmed it could lay off 900 pilots and cabin crew starting in September because of Brexit, rising fuel bills and the grounding of Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The airline made the admission after details of an internal video message from chief executive Michael O'Leary to staff were leaked. The Irish Independent has seen the four-minute video, during which Mr O'Leary offers apologies for what he describes as a string of "bad news" events which make reductions to the company's 19,000-strong work force "simply unavoidable".

Speaking directly to the camera, Mr O'Leary says Ryanair's first-quarter earnings published on Monday showed a 21pc drop in profits compared with a year ago. He blames lower fares, particularly on UK routes, a €450m hike in fuel costs, "and higher staff costs, largely because of the big pilot and cabin crew pay increases we negotiated last year".

"This bad news comes just two weeks after we announced that the Max delivery delays mean that instead of taking 58 new aircraft for summer 2020, we will now at best get only 30 of those aircraft, which means we will need about 600 less pilots and cabin crew for summer 2020," he says.

"On top of this bad news, we already have a surplus of over 500 pilots and some 400 cabin crew, because resignations have dried up to effectively zero since January. Added to these challenges is the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit in just 12 weeks' time. And we're worried that this could have a very damaging effect, particularly on our UK bases, and on some of our Irish bases, which are heavily dependent on people travelling between Ireland and the UK."

After Bloomberg reported yesterday that the message suggested a total of 1,500 job cuts, Ryanair issued a clarification to the Irish Independent that the jobs at risk referred to the 500 pilots and 400 cabin crew already deemed surplus to requirements. These potential cuts would mean staff numbers fall by at least 600 by next summer.

In his message, Mr O'Leary says Ryanair managers are liaising with airports and union officials and hope to tell staff by the end of August what bases would be closed or downsized.

"I'm sorry, and I apologise sincerely to all of you for this bad news and any uncertainty it'll cause you over the coming weeks," Mr O'Leary says. "But it's being driven by the Max delivery delays and the threat of a no-deal Brexit, which are clearly huge and very uncertain challenges."

Fórsa, the union which since mid-2018 has represented many Ryanair employees in Ireland, said it had no specific information about the routes or bases that may be affected.

"Fórsa is watching the situation closely, and has told the airline's management that it expects to be consulted on any measures that could impact on the jobs, incomes or working conditions of union members."

FRUnite, the branch of the Unite union which represents Ryanair's UK-based cabin crew, questioned the rationale for cuts given what it sees as unrelenting recruitment activity.

It listed 20 recruitment days held since July 11 in more than two dozen European cities, from Dublin to Sofia, with more scheduled from today through the weekend in Prague, Hamburg and the Italian cities of Bari and Cagliari.

"Are these new recruits going to be made redundant?" FRUnite asked in a statement. "Or will current employees be made redundant with their jobs taken by new recruits? How does the management of Ryanair imagine reducing the number of cabin crew by recruiting even more?"

Mr O'Leary said Ryanair intended to lay off pilots and cabin crew "at the end of our summer schedule in September and October, and also some immediately after Christmas."

Irish Independent

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