Business Irish

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Ryanair passengers face threat of major disruption as Irish-based pilots back strikes

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Anne-Marie Walsh and John Mulligan

RYANAIR passengers face the threat of major disruption during peak holiday season after Irish-based pilots voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action today.

The Irish Airline Pilots Association warned it may announce strike dates next week after members backed industrial action by 94pc in a ballot.

A spokesperson said it plans to write to management at the low fares airline early next week to outline its plans.

The pilots could choose to join their UK-based colleagues who have announced strike dates later this month and early next month.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association plan to walk off the job for 48 hours on August 22, followed by a 72 hour stoppage on September 2.

Ialpa has given the airline a deadline next Monday to accept its demands for improvements to pay and a range of terms and conditions including maternity leave benefits.

The potential stand-off with its Irish crew poses a major problem for the airline that is already in conflict with its UK-based pilots.

It is also facing a showdown with staff after chief executive Michael O’Leary announced recently that up to 900 jobs– including 600 pilot posts – could be axed.

The budget airline has just recovered from a major campaign of industrial action involving pilots and cabin crew that spread through its European bases last summer and forced it to cancel hundreds of flights.

In a statement, Ialpa’s parent union Fórsa said the pilots will give notice of industrial action unless pay, working conditions and related issues are addressed.

The union said it represents 180 of the airline’s directly-employed pilots.

It submitted a pay claim in late March this year seeking pay levels and terms and conditions that it says are in line with industry norms.

In a statement, it said the airline is in a healthy financial position and can fairly reward its pilots after posting profits of €1bn last year.

Fórsa assistant general secretary Ian McDonnell said industrial action could be avoided if Ryanair management "engaged professionally and constructively in talks". He claimed the airline was using "stalling tactics" in the negotiations, "where it had sought costings of the union’s claim and then failed to provide the operational information needed to make the calculations".

"They [pilots] feel they have been forced into contemplating potentially-disruptive industrial action by a company that seems either unwilling or unable to negotiate in a professional and constructive manner," insisted Mr McDonnell.

He added: "At this stage, only a substantive counter-proposal, which properly addresses all areas of our claim, will be enough to prevent us serving notice of industrial action next week."

Ryanair said they are "disappointed" by the planned action.

A spokesman for the airline said: "The result of FORSA’s ballot shows that less than half of Ryanair’s Irish pilots are members of FORSA, and less than 60pc of these FORSA members participated in the ballot with less than 25pc of Ryanair’s Irish Pilots voting for industrial action. This disruption of customers holiday plans has no valid mandate from Ryanair’s Irish Pilots.

"Since summer 2018, Ryanair and FORSA have engaged in a mediation process under Mr Kieran Mulvey which has delivered collective agreements on promotions, transfers, seniority and most recently (April 2019), a pay increase of up to 20pc for those Irish pilots who had not agreed this 20pc increase in 2018. Ryanair’s Irish pilots also enjoy a 5 on, 4 off roster (a double bank holiday every week).

"On 30th July Forsa gave an undertaking to Mediator Kieran Mulvey that they would return to mediation next week (beginning 11 Aug) with specific pay proposals, which they have failed to provide either to Ryanair or Kieran Mulvey for over 6 months now.

"FORSA are still unable to explain what pay increase they are seeking on top of the 20pc increase already agreed, at a time when Ryanair pilots resignations have dwindled to zero because Ryanair pilots are better paid than 737 competitors in Norwegian (who are cutting pilot pay and jobs) and Jet2 (who have frozen pilot pay in return for improved rosters). 

"The pay deals already agreed with FORSA have deliver pay increase of up to 20pc at a time when Ryanair profits are falling due to higher fuel and payroll costs, with Senior Captains now earning over €200,000 p.a. for working five days on, followed by four days off. Ryanair pilots already earn 20pc more than pilots in comparable 737 airlines like Norwegian."

They continued to call on FORSA to clarify why they announced the action.

"This FORSA threat of industrial action has no mandate from Ryanair pilots, and is ill-timed just 10 weeks before a hard Brexit, while Ryanair is in the process of letting excess pilots go due to the Boeing MAX delivery delays. FORSA should continue in mediation and avoid threatening unnecessary disruptions to customers holidays and travel plans.

"Ryanair now calls on FORSA to explain why it is announcing industrial action and customer disruptions while it is still in a mediation process, led by Mr Kieran Mulvey, under which they have yet to table any specific pay proposals.

"FORSA should now continue mediation with Ryanair instead of threatening ill-judged and ill-timed industrial action with the sole intention of creating uncertainty for customers travelling during the late August period," the spokesman said".


More to follow...

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