Two unions which represent Ryanair cabin crew in Spain have accused airline executives of threatening to pull out of the country unless workers accept Irish employment contracts. The accusations were made by Ernesto Iglesias of the USO union and Antonio Escobar of the Sitcpla union as up to 4,000 Spanish cabin crew prepare to go on strike on 25th and 26th July.
One of the key demands being made by Ryanair cabin crew in Spain, as well as in Portugal and Belgium who will be joining the 48-hour strike, is that the Dublin-based low-cost carrier offers locally agreed employment contracts. At present, Ryanair forces workers to sign an Irish contract which they say offers them fewer rights and is at odds with other major airlines throughout Europe.
Ryanair, however, has refuted the claims with the airline’s chief spokesperson, Kenny Jacobs telling us: “These union claims are utter rubbish. Ryanair is Spain’s number one airline.” It’s believed that Spain accounts for roughly 19% of Ryanair’s total traffic and the carrier has a number of bases throughout the country.
Nonetheless, the accusation will certainly cause some consternation amongst the airline’s cabin crew community. In the last few days, Ryanair said it offered valuable work to people in countries suffering from high youth unemployment. Spain currently has the second highest youth unemployment rate in Europe – standing at 35% for people aged younger than 25-years old, according to Statista.
The overall unemployment in Spain of 16.1% is way above the European Union average which is hovering at 7.1%.
Ryanair has created pilot and cabin crew bases throughout Europe as a way to keep costs low by avoiding night stops. Any attempt to close cabin crew bases in Spain would significantly change the airline’s business model and would prove to be a huge logistical nightmare.
As the largest strike in Ryanair’s history looms, the airline has come under the spotlight for some questionable communications being sent to cabin crew. In one internal memo, Eddie Wilson – Ryanair’s head of cabin crew – asked crew in Spain, Portugal and Belgium to complete an online survey which asked them if they intended to strike.
Unions have denounced the survey, claiming it could be illegal while Wilson promptly sent another memo: “It is perfectly legal to ask people if they intend to work rostered duties” it read. The memo went on to assure cabin crew that Ryanair would not victimise or punish crew who decided to go on strike.
The memo further claimed that “the unions don’t seem to care about our customers or your jobs.”
In a possible sign of progress, however, Ryanair announced that it had brokered a union recognition deal with the German trade union, Ver.di yesterday. The deal, though, will only apply to cabin crew who are directly employed by Ryanair.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the Unite Union has managed to strike a similar deal which also includes cabin crew from one of the two main third-party agencies which make up the bulk of Ryanair’s cabin crew.