Ryanair might be one of Europe’s largest airlines but the low-cost carrier doesn’t have the most stellar reputation for the way it treats its staff. In the past, Ryanair’s outspoken chief executive, Michael O’Leary even appeared to enjoy being seen as a Mr Nasty character – going so far as making staff in the airline’s Head Office bring in their own pens and banning workers from charging mobile phones using the company’s electricity.
In the last 12-months, however, Ryanair has apparently made an about turn on its industrial relations strategy – agreeing for the first time in its history to recognise unions for both pilots and cabin crew. That occurred in large part because of a pilot rostering fiasco which resulted in Ryanair being forced to cancel thousands of flights.
Long-suffering pilots and the unions which represent them seized the opportunity to demand change at a time when airlines around the world are suffering from a pilot shortage. Ryanair has agreed on substantial wage rises and other settlements to secure its operation across Europe.
Not all has gone smoothly. There have been threats of strike action and on occasion, Ryanair execs have looked like they were having second thoughts. On the whole, however, Ryanair pilots have achieved a better deal with far greater representation than they previously had.
The same can’t be said for Ryanair’s cabin crew. There’s certainly no shortage of cabin crew in Europe and the airline has already faced down one strike earlier this year by Portuguese cabin crew at the airline (using Spanish cabin crew to break the strike).
In fairness to Ryanair, they have made some improvements to working conditions – including no longer requiring new joiners to pay thousands of Euro’s to take part in Ryanair’s cabin crew training course and providing a new uniform free of charge. The airline also says it provides a new joiners bonus, a competitive salary and a convenient roster.
Critics, however, say cabin crew have to work long hours with very little break time and no food or drink provided by the airline. They’re put under pressure to achieve tough sales targets and the promised earning potential rarely meets reality.
“After years of ignoring complaints from its workers, in December 2017 Ryanair finally announced that it would recognise trade unions. However, almost six months on there has been little progress from the airline,” explained a spokesperson for the International Transport Workers Federation.
Under the banner of ‘Cabin Crew United’, they’re organising the first summit of Ryanair cabin crew from across Europe. They’ll be meeting in Ryanair’s home city of Dublin on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 July to demand better treatment from the airline.
Various trade unions from across the continent are also due to meet in early June to decide their next plan of action. They want Ryanair to remove the pressure that many cabin crew feel over sales targets – demanding that safety come before sales.
Ryanair cabin crew are being encouraged to find out more about the campaign via the Cabin Crew United Facebook page.