Over the last few months, Ryanair has faced significant difficulties in the relationship it holds with many of its in-flight crew including pilots and cabin crew. Many of those problems are arguably of the airline’s very own making – allegations of low wages and poor working conditions, use of agency staff, tough sales targets and “social dumping” have all been made against the low-cost carrier.
Ryanair has seen workers hold strikes in several countries including its directly employed pilots in Ireland and Italy, as well as cabin crew in Portugal, Belgium, Spain and Italy. Only yesterday, both pilots and cabin crew in Germany held a 24-hour wildcat strike over demands for better pay and conditions.
Claim: 70% of Ryanair crew turned up for strike during strike
The airline was forced to cancel around 150 flights to and from Germany yesterday but maintains the union action caused very little impact on Ryanair’s operations across the Continent. In fact, the airline claims over 70% of its in-flight crew turned up for work as normal in Germany.
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary has taken a typically tough stance on the industrial strife, only yesterday telling reporters: “We will not roll over every time we’re threatened with strikes.”
“We do not want strikes but we are willing to accept strikes, put up with them if it means defending our cost base.”
Cabin crew to strike on 28th September for 24-hours
That being said, Ryanair has recently made progress in hammering out deals with some work groups. The airline has successfully negotiated collective labour agreement’s with pilots in Ireland and Italy and has signed “union recognition” agreements in several countries.
Negotiations with unions that represent cabin crew have been somewhat slower although today came the news that Ryanair had managed to reach a tentative three-year collective labour agreement with three crew unions in Italy.
But not every member of Italian cabin crew for Ryanair belongs to these three unions, and one – the Uiltrasporti union (which the airline doesn’t currently recognise) – has come together with unions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain to announce a 24-hour strike which will take place on 28th September.
Local contracts are key to union demands
Quoted by Reuters, Didier Lebbe of the Belgium CNE union commented on the news: “It is time the company accepted to employ us with local contracts under local conditions in accordance with local law,”
Ahead of the airline’s AGM due to be held on 20th September and in which campaigners are putting pressure on shareholders to reject the reappointment of Ryanair’s billionaire Chairman David Bonderman over his “virulently anti-union” stewardship of the company, Lebbe said:
“We need shareholders to change Ryanair’s employment model.”
Ryanair says claims of “travel chaos” are “false”
At present all Ryanair staff are employed under Irish employment contracts no matter where they are employed in Europe. Key to the union demands is that staff have local contracts for the country in which they are based. If Ryanair refuses to meet this demand, the union’s have said they will stage a 24-hour strike every month – claiming such action would cause “chaos”.
For its part, a spokesperson for Ryanair has dismissed that claim as “false”.
“We object to these lurid and inaccurate press headlines which wrongly refer to “travel chaos”, despite the fact that during the seven days of partial strikes by a small minority of our pilots and cabin crew this summer, there has been very little disruption and absolutely no “chaos”.”