Ryanair 'pulls out all stops' in bid to beat the pilots' strike
Ryanair is set to "pull out all the stops" to ensure there is minimum disruption to flights during a 24-hour strike on Thursday.
Sources said the company may fly in cockpit crew from bases abroad to fill gaps when its directly employed Irish-based pilots mount pickets in a row over better conditions.
There was some hope last night the industrial action could be averted.
The pilots' union and the airline are set to hold talks tomorrow at Dublin Airport on the eve of the strike.
But the Irish Air Line Pilots Association (Ialpa) said it still expects the industrial action to go ahead.
Ryanair is due to unveil its contingency plans to minimise disruption to passengers by email and text today.
It has already urged pilots who are not striking or are not rostered to volunteer for duty.
Sources said this may have a knock-on effect on services at other bases as operations are "tight" during peak summer season.
Ryanair used similar tactics by shuffling staff around during a pilot strike in Germany last year.
There were no flight cancellations, but long delays on some routes.
Union sources said self-employed pilots are legally obliged to turn up for work so would not be seen as strike breakers.
They make up the majority of the workforce of 350 pilots.
Ialpa, a division of Fórsa, balloted almost 100 out of a total of 120 directly employed pilots. They overwhelmingly backed industrial action.
Fórsa said it offered to accept Ryanair's invitation to meet the company tomorrow. This was to "allay" Ryanair's concerns that the meeting could become a "media circus", it said.
A spokesperson for Fórsa said: "The union said that while the effect of industrial action on Thursday's flight schedules remains unknown, it remained determined to work toward resolving the outstanding issue of a seniority agreement for pilots at the airline."
However, Fórsa said the union expected Thursday's scheduled industrial action would go ahead.
Ryanair said it offered to meet its pilots and Fórsa at a neutral venue today or tomorrow to avoid the "unnecessary" strike.
In a letter to Fórsa national secretary Angela Kirk, Ryanair's chief people officer, Eddie Wilson, proposed a neutral venue at Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport.
However, he said: "We expect all future meetings with our employees will take place at our Airside offices."
The prospect of further disruption is growing as German pilots are balloting on industrial action and other unions may follow suit.
The airline is also facing strike action by cabin crew based in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium over demands for concessions in relation to their conditions of employment.