Thursday 15 November 2018

Ryanair warning over jobs is 'backfiring' as pilots' threat to strike spreads to continent

Michael O’Leary upped the ante again, stating even more jobs could be shifted to Poland if walkouts continue to hurt the business. Photo: REUTERS
Michael O’Leary upped the ante again, stating even more jobs could be shifted to Poland if walkouts continue to hurt the business. Photo: REUTERS

Anne-Marie Walsh and John Mulligan

Ryanair's decision to put Irish-based pilots on protective notice of job cuts is "backfiring" as strike threats are spreading across Europe.

Sources said more warnings of stoppages are imminent after pilots in the Netherlands and Germany backed industrial action in disputes over their terms and conditions.

But Michael O'Leary upped the ante again, stating even more jobs could be shifted to Poland if walkouts continue to hurt the business.

He said the airline, with bases in 37 countries, is ready to cut jobs "in any market" if people are having strikes "for the sake of having strikes".

But if there was "common sense" on the unions and pilots side, he said they will reach agreement.

"We are the ultimate opportunistic airline," he said at the offices of Ryanair's Austrian unit Laudamotion.

"If some market is being damaged as the Irish market has been damaged in recent months by these activities, the Polish market is growing hugely strongly for us, the Ryanair Sun is very full, profitable; we need more aircraft in the Polish market - move aircraft to Poland.

"If we have people who just want to have strikes for the sake of having strikes then they can have strikes and they'll find themselves (with) jobs getting moved and aircraft getting moved."

Up to 3,500 passengers will be hit by flight cancellations between Ireland and the UK this Friday during a fourth pilots' strike. The pilots' union Fórsa has not yet agreed to talks following an invitation from the company.

Sources claimed putting over 300 workers on protective notice last week has caused a "backlash".

Although some ballots were under way before protective notice was issued, it may have spurred pilots to back strikes, and could encourage unions to ballot their members.

"There's no question that issuing the protective notice is backfiring," said a union source.

"It is galvanising the pilots. Does O'Leary think that threatening people is working?"

Pilots based in the Netherlands referred specifically to the job threat in Dublin when they announced their members backed industrial action by a majority of 99.5pc yesterday.

In a statement, the Dutch ALPA union said Ryanair needs a "wake-up call" and a strike may be the only solution.

"The Dutch ALPA support their Irish colleagues and their strike on August 2 for an Irish labour agreement and to prevent job loss at the Dublin base," it said.

Ballot

The previous day, the German airline pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit noted the company had threatened to transfer or dismiss employees in Ireland and Germany.

The British Airline Pilots Association would not say if it is considering a ballot.

But general secretary Brian Strutton has described the airline's announcement that it is moving work from Dublin to Poland as "regrettable" and said it looked like punishment for participating in strike action.

"We have submitted several proposals, including ones to bring an end to a fragmented pay structure, reduce the number of contract pilots and the acceptance of seniority," he said.

"Ryanair has so far failed to accept any of these proposals."

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business