Ryanair could be in for an uphill struggle as it bids to soothe its tense relationship with pilots and cabin crew by recognising staff unions. Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers made a major u-turn late last week when it announced its intention to negotiate with trade unions for the first time in its 32 year history.
But in an open letter to Ryanair management, the Secretary-General of the European Cabin Crew Association, Christoph Drescher, has now called the move a “publicity stunt.” The letter, dated 21st December, was co-signed by the Chairmen of the German UFO and IGL unions.
The letter was published shortly before a 4-hour stoppage by Ryanair’s directly employed German pilots led by the Vereinigung Cockpit union. The union said it was a “warning strike” following what they deemed “unsatisfactory” preliminary talks with Ryanair to discuss a collective labour agreement.
Translated from German, Drescher’s letter to Ryanair declares his organisation’s support for the German pilot strike and warns that cabin crew may also walk out in the near future. The full letter reads as follows:
“Ryanair’s publicity statement that it wants to engage in talks with unions has now turned out to be what many of us feared: as a publicity stunt to get through Christmas.
A company that does not recognize the simple principle of freedom from adversaries, and veto the choice of interlocutors that it is not entitled to, shows that it has not understood anything.
As UFO, EurECCA and IGL, we declare our full and explicit solidarity with this strike. Even if the cabin crew are STILL NOT called to strike, we are sure that this step must be and support this. We expect the action to be a success tomorrow, Friday.
Contrary to the popular reputation, the pilots are a profession that, due to its selection profile, is an extremely solution-oriented occupational group – solutions must ALWAYS be found in the air. But if they fail due to the lack of willingness to talk, trade unions must use their right to strike to protect their employees.
The cabin crew, the colleagues on the ground and also the public now know what kind of company we are dealing with at Ryanair. In order to protect employee interests and ultimately the needs of customers, there has to be a rethinking there. We sincerely hope that tomorrow’s action will help.”
Just several days ago, the ECCA had broadly supported the move by Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary to recognise unions. The association, which represents nine major European cabin crew unions, said it wanted to “engage” with Ryanair and was looking forward to building a strong relationship with management.
As trade unions increasingly fear O’Leary was simply trying to avoid pre-Christmas walkouts, the airline has said it “regrets” the 4-hour stoppage by German pilots. It has called the strike “unjustified and unnecessary” and has offered to meet union leaders on 5th January 2018 to continue discussions.
Earlier this week, the UFO union called on serving Ryanair cabin crew to join a trade union. A list of some of the most popular cabin crew unions include:
- Ireland: IMPACT Trade Union
- Italy: ANPAC
- Germany: Unabhängige Flugbegleiter Organisation (UFO)
- Netherlands: VNC
- Spain: Stavla
- Portugal: SNPVAC
- United Kingdom: Unite
While Ryanair might be getting most of the attention at the moment, the European Transport Workers Federation has cautioned about what it calls “social dumping.” They say the entire low-cost airline sector has to relook at its use of agency staff.