'We need to change the tone dramatically' - Ryanair vows to make airline a pleasant place to work
Ryanair pilots were forced to stay at "dumps" when overnighting away from their home bases, while giving pilots a "hard time" appeared to be the goal of the airline's administrative staff, its executives have admitted.
"I've got pictures of some of the dumps," Ryanair's chief operations officer, Peter Bellew, told pilots at London Stansted when he met them last week.
Mr Bellew reiterated that staff retention was important for the carrier, adding that pilots who were leaving had been told: "There's the door, Foxtrot Oscar" - a euphemism for "f*** off".
"With the anger there is around the place, if we don't manage to turn that around, we're going to lose more people, so we need to change that. I'm convinced we will do it," he said.
Yesterday, the Irish Independent first revealed the content of last Thursday's meeting, as Mr Bellew and Ryanair's chief people officer, Eddie Wilson, unmasked a broken culture and creaking operations that had been key ingredients in the genesis of the airline's September pilot-rostering fiasco.
"Part of the problem is that some of the people who were doing these jobs in the past, there was no training whatsoever," Mr Bellew admitted during the meeting.
He admitted that some of the airline's administrative staff saw it as their job to give pilots "a hard time".
"There is certain basic administrative and simple stuff that made this flight operations department work in the previous 25 years that was removed," he conceded, adding that pilots, management and other staff would have to work together to fix the problems.
Mr Bellew rejoined Ryanair earlier this month from Malaysia Airlines. He previously said rejoining Ryanair, where he worked until 2014, was a form of "national service".
Mr Bellew has told pilots that he now wants to make Ryanair a "tremendous" place to work again. "This generally was a very pleasant place to work, people were happy," he told the pilots in Stansted. "It's not like that any more. We need to change the tone dramatically."
The Irish Independent reported yesterday that Mr Bellew described the tone in Ryanair as "miserable" following the intense scrutiny it had been under since the rostering failure.
Yesterday evening, Mr Bellew and Mr Wilson met representatives from the trade union Impact as they started unprecedented talks aimed at recognising unions.
Following the conclusion of the talks, Impact's Bernard Harbor was asked by reporters whether the threat of industrial action had increased or receded. He replied: "The ball is in Ryanair's court."
He said Ryanair has until noon tomorrow to respond to proposals it has put forward on recognising Impact/Ialpa for collective bargaining purposes.
Meanwhile, Mr Wilson was more upbeat is his assessment of the talks, saying they had ended on a "positive note" and will continue today and tomorrow with unions from Germany and Portugal. However, he sounded a note of caution to employees, warning that in a "unionised environment" there might be "more modest pay increases going forward".