Business Irish

Friday 23 August 2019

Ryanair passengers face 48 hour strike as pay row talks with pilots break down

Ryanair stock image
Ryanair stock image
Ryanair plane (stock image)

Anne-Marie Walsh

RYANAIR passengers face a 48 hour strike next week after talks to end a pay row with pilots broke down this evening.

Sources said discussions to avert industrial action by the Irish-based pilots ended with no further negotiations planned.

It is understood that demands for wage hikes of over 50pc backdated to February last year were made at the talks.

The airline already faces turbulence following the announcement of 10 days of industrial action in Spain.

The directly-employed pilots will strike for 48 hours on August 22 and 23 coinciding with stoppages by UK-based pilots.

Forsa served strike notice on the company this evening, and said it will notify the company of further strike days in due course.

It said the airline negotiators failed to put forward a counter proposal on a range of terms and conditions that would avert the strikes.

The move comes after 94pc of members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association voted to back industrial action in the long-running dispute over pay and working condition.

Denying management claims that the company had not received specific proposals, the union said Ryanair had received detailed proposals almost four months ago. It said the airline made no significant response, even in the face of a costly and potentially disruptive stoppage.

Fórsa national secretary Angela Kirk said Ryanair pilots told her they’d been forced into industrial action by the company’s failure to offer any significant response to their proposals over a four-month period. She said she regretted any disruption that might flow from management’s unwillingness or inability to negotiate a fair and transparent pay package, even at this late hour.

IALPA is seeking pay levels it believes are common and competitive in the commercial airline sector, from a company that made a substantial profit of €1 billion last year, she said "They tell me they feel forced into serving notice of potentially-disruptive industrial action by a company that seems either unwilling or unable to negotiate in a professional, transparent and constructive manner," she said.

Ryanair said the pilots withdrew from mediation after no progress was made on their "unrealistic demands".

It said in a statement at today’s mediation, the Ryanair Pilots Committee and Fórsa confirmed that they are seeking pay increases of 101pc.

It said this is on top of current annual pay of over €172,000.

"Ryanair Pilots are insisting on these pay demands being met, just one day after Norwegian announced the closure of its Dublin operations with the loss of over 120 crew jobs, despite the fact that Ryanair has a surplus of over 500 pilots due to the delayed delivery of over 30 MAX aircraft this winter, and just 10 weeks before a "no-deal" Brexit could cause further disruption to air travel and airline jobs in Ireland and the UK," it said.

It called on its pilots and  Fórsa to return to talks with reasonable proposals which reflect the falling airfares and profits Ryanair has recently reported.

It said Ryanair pilot pay is already 20pc ahead of comparable 737 airline pilot pay in Norwegian and Jet2.

Ryanair Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson said: "We have done everything in our power to avoid disruption to our flights and our customers’ holidays. However, no company can concede to grossly unreasonable demands from its highest paid workers for a further pay increase of over 100pc (when they already agreed and received a 20pc pay increase earlier this year) at a time when the airline industry is in crisis.

"Ryanair pilots who are already among the best paid workers in Ireland are now threatening to disrupt the holiday travel plans of thousands of customers over the coming weeks as they demand that their pay be increased from €172,000 to over €347,000 that would see them earn more than the President of Ireland or our Taoiseach, even as Norwegian makes all of its Dublin pilots redundant. We remain willing to engage in mediation with our pilots and Fórsa but call on them to avoid disrupting our customers’ travel plans in pursuit of what are clearly unrealistic and unimplementable pay proposals."

Strike threats are stacking up as Spanish cabin crew threatened industrial action unless the airline reverses plans to close several bases in the Canary Islands.

The SITCPLA and USO workers' unions said that the reason for the strike is to prevent the close of bases at Gran Canaria, Tenerife Sur and Girona.

A total of 13 airports will be hit if the strikes go ahead on September 1 and 2, 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 27 and 28.

Ryanair also faces:

A five-day strike by Portuguese cabin crew from next Wednesday.

A 48-hour strike by UK-based pilots next Thursday.

A three-day strike by UK-based pilots from September 2.

Senior market analyst at City Index, Fiona Cincotta, said things have gone from bad to worse for Ryanair across the summer months.

Shares in the low-cost carrier lost a further 1.9pc on Tuesday, bringing total losses for the month to just shy of 8pc, she said.

"Since February Ryanair shares have lost 30pc of their value," she said.

"The negatives just keep stacking up, with few signs of letting up. Strike action by pilots over pay and conditions is the latest catalyst for a selloff."

She said weak first half results, job cuts amid the grounding of Boeing's Max 737 jetliners and Brexit fears are also factors hitting demand for Ryanair shares.

Online Editors

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