Business Irish

Thursday 13 December 2018

Ryanair engaged in 'negative' talks with unions – pilots representation

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary Photo: Bloomberg
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary Photo: Bloomberg
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair has engaged in a "negative" start to talks with unions and has focused on "creating distractions and sowing seeds of division", a council established to represent Ryanair pilots across Europe has claimed.

In a letter to Ryanair’s chief operations officer, Peter Bellew, the EERC (European Employee Representative Council), has claimed the airline’s continuing approach will "encourage rather than slow down the exodus from our company".

Ryanair, whose chief executive is Michael O'Leary, dramatically announced days before Christmas that it would recognise pilot and other unions across Europe. However, in tandem with engaging with unions it has been pushing through pilot pay agreements at a number of bases.

While trade unions in countries including Ireland, Sweden, Italy, the UK, Spain, Germany and Portugal have established Ryanair councils under their auspices, Ryanair has always refused to recognise the EERC, which aims to act as a pan-European council for the pilots.

Irish trade union Fórsa, formally Impact, told Ryanair last month that any pay measures agreed between pilots here and the airline, would be viewed as an "interim measure" pending engagement on pay following completion of a recognition agreement between Ryanair management and Fórsa.

The union said two weeks ago that since Fórsa is now recognised by Ryanair for collective bargaining purposes, "pay must be negotiated with the union".

The letter from the EERC to Mr Bellew yesterday underlines the scale of the challenge still facing unions and Ryanair in developing a long-term negotiating framework.

"Having observed closely how you have pursued the company’s new policy on union recognition, we are concerned that your actions to date will continue to have a negative impact on pilots and will encourage rather than slow down the exodus from our company," the EERC claimed in its letter to Mr Bellew yesterday.

The EERC added: “Instead of attempting to build new relationships based on trust and a consistent recognition framework for meaningful engagement with pilots’ representatives, you seem to have focused on creating distractions and sowing seeds of division.

"The company approach to date appears to focus on undermining the pilots’ unity, rather than establishing constructive recognition agreements. Such an avoidable negative start to talks with our unions may contribute to more pilots continuing towards the exits in search of respect and fairness in new employment."

The EERC has insisted that there are “many issues” to be addressed in the immediate term, "if the company is to gain credibility that you are serious about addressing the underlying issues that have caused so many problems since September 2017".

Ryanair claimed that the EERC has “no legal validity or standing” and that it will “continue to ignore the so-called ‘EERC’ which represents nobody and speaks for no Ryanair pilots”.

“Since Ryanair has already agreed pay increases of up to 20pc with its UK pilots (voting in secret ballot) and a union recognition agreement with BALPA, this ‘EERC’ claim that Ryanair has engaged in ‘negative’ talks with unions is untrue,” said the airline.

It added: “While union recognition has been agreed in the UK (which accounts for over 25pc of Ryanair’s pilots), IALPA (The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association) has blocked two votes on similar pay increases for the 35pc of Dublin pilots who have not yet received it. Ryanair will now offer this pay increase individually to the small minority of Dublin pilots who have been denied a vote on this increase by Fórsa/IALPA.”

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