Sunday 18 August 2019

Ryanair pilots brace for action as group aims for pay talks

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

John Mulligan

A NEWLY-FORMED European Employee Representative Committee is "working closely" with national pilot associations to achieve a collective labour agreement "through negotiations or industrial action", it has told Ryanair pilots.

The latest communication from the European Employee Representative Committee (EERC) to more than 3,000 Ryanair pilots who have indicated that they want their interests to be represented by the body, comes as the airline pledged to employ more pilots directly rather than as contractors.

A circular from the EERC noted that the organisation will "negotiate a framework document" in relation to pilot conditions and pay proposals at Ryanair.

"This document will then be used to ensure that the national-level negotiations in each country are properly aligned with each other," the circular notes.

"If a pilot is moved to any country, at any time, they will have a clear document that shows what they are entitled to."

The EERC added: "Taking industrial action needs careful planning to protect the pilots involved, protect the pilots' union from legal attack by the company, and ensure the minimum amount of damage to our company.

"We must remember - we all want to have a prosperous and successful company after any industrial action - we just want to be treated as equals within that company."

Ryanair said it does not comment on "rumour or speculation". Ryanair does not recognise the EERC

The airline negotiates with pilots via separate employee representative councils (ERCs) at each of its almost 90 bases. It has defended its right to use that negotiation system and points out that the Supreme Court has previously endorsed it as a valid means of engaging with its pilots to negotiate pay and conditions.

The airline has said that it will never deal with the EERC. Ryanair can't prevent staff from joining unions, but does not recognise unions, and is legally entitled not to do so.

"Rest assured that we won't be negotiating with anyone else so don't be misled by the union and its so-called EERC, which promises you much but delivers you nothing," Ryanair chief people officer Eddie Wilson told pilots last week in a memo.

He said a 2007 effort by unions to disengage pilots from the ERC process failed.

"That strategy failed then, and it will fail again now," he said, adding that pilots can boycott the ERC system, but "their absence cannot bring it down or force Ryanair to engage with unions".

Ryanair has already offered its pilots - both directly employed and contractors - new pay structures. But many pilots have rejected the offers, and are instead backing the new EERC as the vehicle through which they want negotiations with the airline to proceed.

"There is a legal process in each country to take industrial action, which we all must follow," the interim EERC has noted. "The requirements are a little different in each country and it takes time to coordinate this across multiple countries."

The EERC added that in order to take industrial action as part of negotiating a collective labour agreement (CLA), it is a "legal requirement in most cases" for a national pilots' association (NPA) to create a national company council.

"This company council negotiates with the company and asks the pilots to vote on the outcome of negotiations. If accepted by the pilots, the company council then asks their NPA board to formally sign the agreed CLA. This makes the CLA legally enforceable in each country."

Ryanair - headed by CEO Michael O'Leary - continues to hire more pilots.

"Our commitment to dramatically increase the number of directly employed pilots continues with over 180 contract FO's (first officers) being offered Ryanair contracts in November, and 300 more offers being made by December," Mr Wilson said.

Irish Independent

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