Tuesday 26 March 2019

'This was a warning shot' - Ryanair hit with first ever pilots strike

Ryanair (Niall Carson/PA)
Ryanair (Niall Carson/PA)

Myria Mildenberger and Victoria Bryan

Ryanair’s efforts to avert its first ever pilots strike collapsed today as pilots in Germany held a four-hour walkout although airports said there had been little impact on flights.

The Irish budget carrier had sought to avert a series of threatened strikes across Europe over Christmas last week by giving up its long-held opposition to recognizing unions.

However, Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union said it would stage a brief walkout as it did not believe Ryanair was serious about recognizing unions or sincere in talks.

“This was a warning shot and we started small. However, there is potential for much more,” union spokesman Markus Wahl said, ruling out further strikes until after Dec 26.

The strike ran from 0401 GMT to 0759 GMT when only 16 flights were scheduled.

“All in all there are no significant effects,” a spokesman for Berlin airports said, noting that five of seven flights had departed, with one delayed.

A Ryanair spokesman said: "9 of our 36 first wave flights operating from Germany this morning were delayed, but there have been no cancellations, and Ryanair expects to operate all of our German scheduled flights today.

"We are grateful to all of our Ryanair pilots for putting our customers first and largely ignoring this VC strike.

"We apologise sincerely to our customers for any inconvenience suffered as a result of this unjustified and unnecessary strike by a small number of pilots organised by the Lufthansa (VC) pilots union."

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Cologne/Bonn airport said two of three scheduled flights had taken off and the third was delayed. Frankfurt airport said four of six scheduled flights had taken off.

Ryanair was not available for immediate comment. Management had urged pilots to work to get passengers home for Christmas.

But the VC union said after a first meeting that it did not believe Ryanair genuinely wanted to recognize unions and said it wanted to send a message that their pilots were serious about industrial action.

VC said Ryanair had refused to accept two members of a delegation that the union nominated to hold talks with management. One of the pilots was a contractor and one a direct employee, but Ryanair has ended both of their contracts, VC said.

“This has shown us that nothing has changed with Ryanair’s management style or how it handles workers’ rights,” VC President Ilja Schulz told reporters on Thursday.

Ryanair pilots mobilized in September after the carrier announced the cancellation of around 20,000 flights, which it blamed on a rostering problem sparked by a change in Irish regulations.


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