Ryanair passengers face travel chaos just days before Christmas after the airline’s Irish-based pilots gave notice of intention to strike on Wednesday, December 20, writes Catherine Shanahan.
Similar moves are afoot in Italy and Portugal, and possibly Germany, as pilots push for better conditions at the budget airline.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has called on Ryanair to engage with pilots’ representatives in an effort to stop the strike going ahead.
ITAA president Cormac Meehan said the timing of the strike, “just five days before Christmas, is very unsettling and worrying for those planning to travel over the holiday season”.
“This industrial action could result in huge disruptions for Irish travellers, in particular for families who may be returning home for Christmas or planning to holiday aboard,” he said.
Pilots from the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), a branch of Impact, backed the action overwhelmingly during secret ballots.
The dispute centres on Ryanair’s failure to recognise independent pilot representatives, Impact said.
Although the number of employees involved in the strike is fewer than the total number of Irish-based Ryanair pilots, the action will have an impact because planes cannot legally or safely fly without a captain. The pilots taking action are directly employed by the company.
Impact official Ashley Connolly said Ryanair was the only Irish-based airline that refuses to recognise independent pilot representatives.
“This dispute is solely about winning independent representation for pilots in the company,” said Ms Connolly.
“Management’s failed negotiating model has let down shareholders and tens of thousands of passengers, whose flights were cancelled this year because company-controlled industrial relations proved incapable of recruiting and retaining enough pilots.
“The failed policy threatens to further disappoint shareholders and passengers, and further damage the airline’s reputation, because experienced pilots continue to leave the airline in droves.”
Ryanair responded by promising to face down any disruptions “if, or when they arise” and by threatening to withdrawn agreed benefits, secured through pilots dealing directly with the airline.
The carrier, which does not recognise trade unions, claimed Ialpa had the support of “less than 28% of Ryanair’s over 300 Dublin pilots” and that those involved belonged to “a small group of pilots who are working their notice and will shortly leave Ryanair, so they don’t care how much upset they cause colleagues or customers”.
Impact has warned of further strike days if agreement is not reached on the airline’s approach to bargaining with staff.
On Friday, Ryanair’s Italian pilots are due to stage the company’s first ever pilots’ strike between 1pm and 5pm.
Ryanair has always insisted that it will only negotiate with Employee Representative Councils at each of its 87 bases.
However, pilots argue this weakens their bargaining power and want to negotiate collectively through a new joint European Employee Representative Council.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that a significant proportion of Ryanair pilots are not directly employed by the airline, but are contractors hired through agencies or other intermediary arrangements.
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner