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Friday 24 May 2019

24-hour Ryanair pilot strike to go ahead as talks fail

Ryanair: Steve Humphreys
Ryanair: Steve Humphreys

Anne-Marie Walsh

UP to 5,000 Ryanair passengers will be hit by the first strike by its pilots tomorrow after talks to avert the stoppage broke down.

Last ditch discussions between the low budget airline and the Irish Airline Pilots Association at Dublin Airport collapsed this evening.

This means the airline will ground 30 flights out of the 290 that are scheduled to take off today during the 24-hour stoppage.

Only those travelling between Ireland and the UK will be hit as all flights to and from Europe will operate as normal.

It is debatable whether talks would have made much difference at this late stage as passengers have already had to deal with the disruption.

Ryanair has organised refunds or accommodated them on alternative flights.

It said over 90pc of its 5,000 customers whose flights between Ireland and the UK were cancelled were rebooked on alternative flights or had applied for full refunds by 5pm yesterday.

Some have already left on earlier flights today while others will travel on Friday or at the weekend.

Fórsa spokesman Bernard Harbor said the talks broke down because both sides could not agree the terms of reference for a new working group to resolve the issues at stake.

He said there were no plans for further talks.

The pilots are demanding a more “transparent” way of allocating holidays, promotions and transfers between bases. They say a system that gives those with longer service preference is the norm at rival airlines.

The claim was made after Ryanair made a dramatic u-turn on its industrial relations policy last December and agreed to recognise unions, when faced with strikes.

In a statement, Ryanair said it expects the strike by 27pc of its pilots to go ahead from 1am tonight as talks ended without agreement.

It said there would be limited disruption due to the efforts of most of its pilots, who are contracted rather than directly-employed staff.

The airline said those on the 30 flights that have been cancelled have been re-accommodated.

It said all customers who it has not notified by email or text should assume their flight will depart.

Ryanair said it offered its pilots and Fórsa the possibility of setting up a working group to negotiate the key issues.

“But regrettably, agreement on this sensible course of action wasn’t possible after seven hours of talks,” it said.

Fórsa official Bernard Harbor said there was no real optimism on either side that they could avoid tomorrow’s industrial action.

“Everybody kind of accepted that at this late stage in the game, it was unlikely that we were going to crack this today, with the strike breathing down our necks,” he said.

He said there was “some glimmer of hope” as the idea of setting up a working group to deal with the sticking points between both sides “had potential”.

However, he said the company was trying to bring other issues into the talks –in relation to union recognition – which should not have been on the agenda. He would not be more specific about what they were.

When asked why the parties had not met earlier this week to give themselves more time to reach agreement, he said disagreement over where they would meet had led to the delay.

“To be honest, we would have liked to meet the management sooner,” he said. “The fact that we were meeting the day before a strike I think meant we weren’t going to make enough progress in one day.”

He said the union wanted a neutral venue for the talks, while Ryanair wanted to hold them at its Airside headquarters.

“That may seem like a minor issue to people listening in and looking in, but the reality is there’s a long history of tension between unions and management in the company.”

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