Tuesday 22 January 2019

Ryanair passengers braced for new threat of strikes over Easter

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary. Photo: PA
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary. Photo: PA

John Mulligan and Anne-Marie Walsh

Ryanair passengers face possible strikes this Easter as the airline continues to battle unions across Europe amid demands for improved pay and conditions for pilots, chief executive Michael O'Leary has warned.

"I think disruptions are inevitable," said the outspoken airline boss, who before Christmas announced that Ryanair would recognise trade unions for the first time in its history. It has started talks with unions aimed at establishing negotiating frameworks.

Mr O'Leary said yesterday he's "unsure" if there will be strikes, but warned that the airline "will face down" threats of disruption.

"But you should be prepared for us being threatened with strikes," he said as Ryanair released better-than-expected third-quarter results, with pre-tax profits rising 12pc to €106m. Revenue was up 4pc at €1.4bn.

"I think, particularly, some of these unions will be trying to do something around Easter week," Mr O'Leary warned. "We are geared up for that and ready for it."

He also again cautioned pilots that if the airline is hit with "repeated or unwarranted" interruptions, that Ryanair will consider reducing the number of aircraft it has at certain bases.

Before it agreed to recognise unions, Ryanair also warned that it would consider moving aircraft out of Dublin, for instance, if any industrial action was initiated by its pilots there.

Ryanair has already engaged in recognition talks with The Irish Airline Pilots' Union (Ialpa) and Fórsa, formerly Impact.

"In Dublin, we have Aer Lingus pilots actively interfering in the discussions we're having with our own pilots and with the Fórsa/Ialpa union," he claimed.

The airline chief also claimed that the unions have "denied" Ryanair pilots in Dublin a pay increase for "almost two months".

"We have now the crazy situation where the union, instead of securing a 20pc pay increase for some of our Dublin pilots, we're having to write to them [pilots] directly for the right to accept a 20pc pay increase," he said. "When you've that kind of mindless interference where people are promoting an Aer Lingus agenda rather than a Ryanair agenda, it will lead to some disruption somewhere."

Fórsa has already told Ryanair management that it will not put the airline's pay proposal to pilots because it was not negotiated with the union.

Union sources are playing down the possibility of industrial action, although they are traditionally known to strike during peak holiday periods.

A union spokesman said yesterday that Fórsa wanted to "quickly conclude" a formal recognition agreement with Ryanair before opening talks on pay and working conditions.

The spokesman said it had not made "any suggestion" of strike action and was currently trying to negotiate a union recognition agreement. It wants this in place before talks could take place on pay.

However, it has thrown out a proposal to ballot on raising pay by up to 20pc because it did not negotiate the offer. It will insist on talks on its members' pay and conditions and the possible backdating of pay rises - which has been ruled out by Mr O'Leary - and potential adoption of industrial relations mediators' recommendations.

Irish Independent

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