Thursday 24 January 2019

'The biggest strike in Ryanair history' - airline hits back at 'chaos' claims

Business Week: Ryanair’s O’Leary says airline ‘won’t be blackmailed’. Photo: REUTERS
Business Week: Ryanair’s O’Leary says airline ‘won’t be blackmailed’. Photo: REUTERS

Anne-Marie Walsh

Ryanair passengers face more disruption as unions are today set to reveal the date of the "biggest strike action the company has ever seen" later this month.

Worker representatives in five European countries are expected to announce a 24-hour stoppage on September 28 at a press conference in Brussels today, a union spokesperson said.

Yves Lambot, of the Belgian union CNE, claimed the strike that will take place on this date will be bigger than the industrial action by cabin crew in July that led to the cancellation of 600 flights. He said German workers may join in.

It is unclear if Irish passengers would be affected by the industrial action.

In a statement today, Ryanair rejected what it said were "false claims" by CNE that the strike action would result in "travel chaos."

“Repeated false claims made by these unions about “travel chaos” have proven to be unfounded. While we regret the limited strike actions that have taken place this summer, in all cases we have judiciously pre-cancelled a small number of our 2,500 daily flights in order to minimise customer disruption and inconvenience," Ryanair spokesman Kenny Jacobs said.

We object to these lurid and inaccurate press headlines which wrongly to refer to “travel chaos”, despite the fact that during the seven days of partial strikes by a small minority of our pilots and cabin crew this summer, there has been very little disruption and absolutely no “chaos”.

"Unions in Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal are involved," said Mr Lambot. "It will be bigger than the cabin crew strike in July. We are meeting next week to prepare the strike."

The unions include Uiltrasporti in Italy, FILT-CGIL in Italy, SNPVAC in Portugal and USO in Spain.

The budget airline cancelled 150 out of 400 scheduled flights yesterday due to a walkout by German pilots and cabin crew in their battle for better terms and conditions.

However, Irish-based pilots have ended a campaign of industrial action after backing a deal to roll out a seniority agreement on the allocation of annual leave, base transfers and promotions.

Ryanair's senior management team may face turbulence next week after UK shareholder advisory firm PIRC advised shareholders to oppose a resolution to re-elect chief executive Michael O'Leary and chairman David Bonderman.

The airline has banned media from its annual general meeting and will not hold a press briefing afterwards.

City Index senior market analyst Fiona Cincotta predicted there may be big changes on the way.

She said Ryanair shares were holding surprisingly steady as the company was about to face another round of strikes by German pilots and crew.

"Though the shares initially fell to €13, they started clawing their way back to €13.18 during the afternoon," she said yesterday.

"The U-turn comes not so much because the company is impervious to the union pressure, but because it has been locked in a series of strikes with German flight unions for the better part of the last six months and the shares have already fallen from a high of €16.81 in June."

She said that in May alone the company had to cancel 1,100 fights compared with 43 in the same month last year.

Given higher oil prices and declining passenger numbers in the airline industry, she said Ryanair may find it difficult to yield to the pressure from pilots and crew who say their wages are far too low.

Ms Cincotta said Ryanair had to also face inwards pressures amid mounting speculation that the company's board might vote against re-electing Mr Bonderman as chairman. He has been in the position for almost two decades.

"The Irish airline has banned media from its AGM scheduled for next week and for the first time in years chief executive Michael O'Leary has decided there would be no press briefing after the event," she said.

"Changes are most likely afoot for the airline."

Read more:

What are my rights if my flights are cancelled?

Irish Independent

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