Ryanair warns of long term hit by Irish strikes
Airline wants immediate talks with union but says aircraft are "moveable assets", writes Fearghal O'Connor
Unresolved long-term industrial relations issues between Ryanair management and its Irish pilots could ultimately hit future expansion by the airline here, a senior manager at the airline has indicated.
"It is too early to say that there is any implication to Ryanair's business in Ireland at this stage but everyone should remember aircraft are moveable assets," said Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.
The airline is currently locked in negotiations with trade unions across Europe on a range of issues after it last year agreed to recognise them. But management are believed to be disappointed to have made less progress placating its Irish pilots then it has with British and Italian unions.
Last week the airline saw a quarter of its Irish pilots take to the picket lines for the first time, leading to 30 mainly UK-bound flight cancellations.
The airline afterwards said that the strike had "achieved nothing" but the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa) - a branch of the Forsa trade union - said it had notified Ryanair that it intends to hold two further one-day strikes on July 20 and July 24.
Jacobs expressed confidence that a working group set up between the company and the airline would meet this week to negotiate outstanding issues and try to avoid further strikes.
Last week Ialpa released a statement to say it had "found some common ground" in the proposal for a joint working group and this "could help the parties agree on a fair and transparent method to govern base transfer arrangements and related matters."
But it failed to reach agreement on the terms of reference for such a group, it said.
"The best thing that can happen now is that the working group meet early next week and start to go through the detail of the issues," said Jacobs. "That's what we want to do next but let's not spend two weeks working on the terms of reference," he said, adding that if that happened it would "start to look like 1980s industrial relations."
Jacobs said that negotiators on behalf of the pilots needed to improve their understanding of issues on which the sides remained at odds, including base transfers, pan-European seniority and annual leave.
He rejected calls by the trade union to agree to third-party intervention into the dispute: "Third-party intervention is not required because it is way to early and we should just try to carry on and try to fix this between Ryanair management, the union and the pilots' representative committee," he said.
Ryanair management was understood to be unhappy with some of the dynamics around talks held last week, with concern expressed that Ialpa president Evan Cullen is an Aer Lingus pilot.
"We are happy to continue to sit down and continue to negotiate with Forsa and the Ryanair Pilots Committee. We ask the question, why is an Aer Lingus pilot involved in any shape or form in these negotiations? We can't accept that and we will only look to negotiate with our people," said Jacobs.
Jacobs said there was "clearly a gap in the understanding of the union on the practicalities on some of the things they are proposing" and that certain proposals would be more suited to a smaller airline with one main base such as Aer Lingus.
Jacobs said demands by pilots for a pan European seniority list were "simply not workable and it would be to the detriment of Irish pilots if we implemented what the Irish union was asking us to implement for Irish pilots."
"Why would we implement something that would be bad for their members? They need to improve their understanding, meet us again and carry on that conversation in the working group that we propose."
Sunday Indo Business