The chances of Ryanair cabin crew across Europe taking part in strike action this summer have just nudged a little higher, with some saying industrial action could take place as early as the end of June. The news comes on the back of a high-level meeting between union officials which took place in Madrid, Spain on Monday.
Unions from several unions who represent cabin crew in a number of countries including Portugal, Spain, Belgian and Italy are demanding better working conditions for Ryanair crew. Top of the agenda is a demand that Ryanair applies the national laws of where a crew member is based to their employment contract.
At the moment, Ryanair cabin crew are all employed under Irish contracts which critics say provide fewer rights than the country in which many staffers are based. Unions have already won a legal challenge which would allow a local court to make decisions on employment disputes – the hope being that courts in some countries will rule more favourably on the side of workers.
Ryanair has already seen one small-scale strike by Portuguese-based cabin crew led by the SNPVAC union. Cabin crew led a three-day strike in April but Ryanair has come in for criticism for trying to “break” the strike by using planes and crew who are based in Spain to fill in the routes.
Reports suggest that Ryanair has taken disciplinary action against both Portuguese-based crew and workers in Spain who refused to cover their shifts. A coalition of European unions has denounced the use of so-called “volunteer” workers during strike action.
A Spanish union representative, Ernesto Iglesias is said to have told reporters that cabin crew could call further strike action if Ryanair fails to meet their demands by 30th June.
Ryanair said late last year, that it would recognise unions for the first time in its history after a heavily publicised backlash from pilots and cabin crew. The airline has been on somewhat of a charm offensive since then, saying cabin crew are offered a generous welcome bonus, a living wage and a good shift pattern.
The carrier has also sought to end criticism of the way it recruits new cabin crew, ending a longterm policy of making new hire’s pay for their own training course and uniform.
However, we’ve since learnt that new joiners are in fact being hired on updated contracts which make them worse off than before. Many cabin crew can expect to work as many as 100 flying hours per month but have seen their wages drop by as much €300 – €400 per month.
Unions are said to be planning a further meeting in June and the first-ever summit of Ryanair cabin crew is planned to take in Dublin in July.
Meanwhile, Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary has said he will “face down” any strike action, suggesting that the airline expected industrial action to take place from time to time after its decision to recognise trade unions.
“Being unionised means we will have occasional strikes,” O’Leary said earlier this month.
His comments came as Ryanair announced a net profit rise of 10% to €1.45 billion in 2017. Although O’Leary, says performance for 2018 is “on the pessimistic side of cautious”.