Monday 17 June 2019

Things could get far worse before they get any better

Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

The head of the organisation for European pilots thinks things at Ryanair could get far worse before they get better. He believes there are some conciliatory voices among management, but potential for strikes to spread across what was once an almost seamless operation.

"If Ryanair does not show any willingness for real genuine social dialogue, I'm sure the unity the pilots have built within the last six months at the transnational company will be spreading to its bases all over Europe," said president of the European Cockpit Association Dirk Polloczek.

"This unity will grow. If Ryanair will not move, the logical consequence is this unity will grow over the borders and it will see the consequences of that unity. We hope not."

He said so far the airline had signed union recognition agreements, but not collective deals that would improve staff's terms and conditions. "It is very disappointing, especially for the pilots."

When reminded they got a 20pc pay rise, he says this is not the issue. They want national contracts based on local laws, and for the length of time in the job to decide who gets base transfers, holidays and other benefits. "That by definition means an increase of cost for Ryanair and it would have to pay social contributions to national insurance systems. But it is a very reasonable request."

Last week, there was a small glimmer of peace when Michael O'Leary asked independent mediator Kieran Mulvey to intervene. But he will be only working on the row in Ireland. Ryanair flies to 37 countries - although it is understood its pilots are only based in around 25. So far pilots in five countries have gone, or are threatening to go, on strike. Sources said about eight countries had set up Ryanair company councils, while pilots in other countries, including Poland and Greece, were trying to set up representative entities.

Portuguese union Spac will not reveal its intentions. Balpa has taken a small step towards a ballot but is still in talks, while Selpa in Spain is involved in legal action "to regularise" pilots' contracts.

There may be fewer unions at the table than the picket lines at the moment. But anything agreed in Ireland when talks start next week, or the UK, could provide a route out of this mess.

Irish Independent

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