Giving Ryanair management just two days notice, the German Vereinigung Cockpit pilots union has announced plans to hold a 24-hour strike in protest at working conditions and pay at the low-cost carrier. The strike action is set to begin at 03:01 am on Friday morning but will only involve pilots who are directly employed by Ryanair in the country.
Yet, while the majority of Ryanair pilots are employed by third-party agencies, the airline is still estimating that 250 flights to and from Germany will need to be cancelled. The strike action has been timed to coincide with previously announced pilot strikes in Ireland, Sweden and Belgium.
Ryanair has said it will cancel around 146 flights from those countries due to the coordinated strike action – with Belgium being the worst affected country. The airline says customers will be notified by this afternoon if their flight has been cancelled and will be given the option to rebook or receive a refund for their flights.
Controversially, however, the budget carrier has so far refused to pay out so-called EC261 Denied Boarding compensation – claiming that trade unions have been acting “unreasonably” and as such the strikes are an “extraordinary circumstance” which exempt Ryanair from responsibility.
“We regret the decision of the VC to go ahead with this unnecessary strike action given that we sent through a revised proposal on a Collective Labour Agreement (on Fri 3 Aug) and stated our intention to work towards achieving a CLA together,” Ryanair said in a statement
“We also invited VC to meet us on Tuesday (7 Aug) but they did not respond to this invitation.”
The union, however, says Ryanair simply sent a letter which repeated what had been discussed in previous negotiations. The union has made it clear that it wants an improved pay offer for its pilots – something, they claim Ryanair has refused to do: “Ryanair alone is responsible for the escalation that has now occurred,” a spokesperson for the union added.
And in a bizarre twist, Ryanair has begun suggesting that the strikes are part of a coordinated conspiracy to benefit legacy airlines like Aer Lingus, SAS and Lufthansa. The airline launched a fierce attack against the Irish pilot union, FORSA with allegations that Aer Lingus pilots were deliberately creating trouble – Ryanair has called on FORSA negotiators who work for the Irish flag carrier to step down but those calls have so far been ignored.
For now, the two sides couldn’t seem to be more at loggerheads. And, of course, there’s still the issue of how much progress is being made with cabin crew unions – we’ve already seen crew walkout in protest in several European countries and there’s still the very real possibility that more strikes could follow soon.