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Ryanair Threatens Pilots and Cabin Crew with Layoffs as largest Strike in Airline’s History Gets Under Way

Ryanair Threatens Pilots and Cabin Crew with Layoffs as largest Strike in Airline’s History Gets Under Way

  • Over 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew could be made redundant
  • Ryanair to shift at least six aircraft from Dublin to Poland
  • Irish pilots announce August bank holiday strike
  • Threat of other base closures if strikes continue
  • Airline’s chief executive says Ryanair will “face down” unions

In a shock announcement, Ryanair has said it will cut its Dublin-based fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft by at least six – the move, the airline warns, will potentially result in both pilots and cabin crew being made redundant.  The announcement follows industrial action by Irish pilots belonging to the FORSA trade union, as well as the largest strike by cabin crew in the airline’s history getting underway in Spain, Portugal and Belgium.

The current fleet of 30 aircraft will be slashed to a maximum of 24 planes for the winter 2018 season.  Ryanair said the decision had been driven by a “downturn in forward bookings and airfares in Ireland.”  The airline partly blamed “recent rolling strikes by Irish pilots” which had negatively affected “high fare bookings and forward airfares.”

In a statement, Ryanair said the aircraft would be diverted to a Polish subsidiary called Ryanair Sun which provides charter services for travel agents in the region.  Over 100 pilots and over 200 cabin crew at Ryanair’s Dublin base have today received “90-day protective notices” which warn them of possible redundancy.

Ryanair says it will use a mixture of “assessment of flight performance, productivity, attendances, and base transfer requests” as methods to determine which staff might be laid off.  Some staffers may be given the opportunity to transfer to Ryanair Sun or another European base – it’s not known what terms and conditions are attached to this offer.

“We regret these base aircraft reductions at Dublin for Winter 2018, but the Board has decided to allocate more aircraft to those markets where we are enjoying strong growth,” commented the airline’s chief operating officer, Peter Bellow.

Threat of further bases closures and a new strike announced

In a thinly veiled threat to staff who might be contemplating strike action at any of the other 87 bases which Ryanair has across Europe, Bellow said in a written statement: “If our reputation for reliability or forward bookings is affected, then base and potential job cuts such as these at Dublin are a deeply regretted consequence”.

Irish pilots have reacted furiously to the news with the FORSA union announcing a further strike which is set to take place on the 3rd August Bank Holiday.  The union warned that further strikes may be announced in the near future.

Ryanair first agreed to recognise trade unions late last year as it faced the possibility of strike action.  While the airline has managed to agree a number of union recognition agreements with both pilot and cabin crew unions in several countries since then, progress has been slow and no agreements on work or conditions have yet been struck.

The ITF warns of further strikes being “probable”

Commenting on the 48-hour strike by cabin crew in Spain, Portugal and Belgium the International Transport Workers Federation explained:

“These strikes come seven months after Ryanair finally agreed to recognise trade unions in December 2017. While a handful of recognition deals have been signed with unions in only three of 21 countries, progress has been painfully slow. There have so far been no concrete improvements in pay and conditions for any Ryanair workers across the network.”

The ITF says Ryanair described a series of demands made by cabin crew which included “an end to poverty pay, no charges for drinking water while on shift, contracts under national rather than Irish law, and the elimination of long-term agency employment” as “pointless”

“The company can still avert a summer of discontent if it comes to the negotiating table in good faith with unions chosen by workers and delivers concrete improvements in pay and working conditions. If it does not then further strikes are probable,” the ITF said.

The airline’s outspoken chief executive, Michael O’Leary has previously said that he would rather the airline take a hit on earnings this year if it meant Ryanair could face down the unions.

Ryanair insists that it’s pilots and cabin crew enjoy some of the best benefits of workers in the low-cost sector but insiders have rejected many of the claims made by the airline.

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