Aviation unions have called “foul play” over a threat from Ryanair to make around 900 pilots and cabin crew redundant, claiming the move is more about intimidating its workforce than a need to slash a surplus of frontline employees. In a video message that was made public last week, Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair group chief executive said the Dublin-based airline was currently operating with 500 more pilots and 400 cabin crew than it needed.
Based on current forecasts, O’Leary said an additional 600 pilots and cabin crew could face the axe, with the first wave of redundancies likely to be announced at the end of the Summer and the second to come immediately after Christmas. O’Leary blamed aircraft delivery delays, the threat of Brexit and a significant slowdown in natural attrition for the surplus.
Union leaders, however, say they remain unconvinced by Ryanair’s claims. In fact, they fear the threats are an “opportunistic” attempt to undermine efforts by pilots in the UK and Ireland to win better working conditions.
In the last couple of weeks, pilots in both countries have been balloted on possible strike action as negotiations with the airline falter. Ryanair now says that pilots and cabin crew in the UK and Ireland will be worst hit by the job losses.
“Last year, Ryanair made similar threats in response to strike action by pilots in Ireland. It looks like the airline is once again using threats to potentially undermine the right to strike,” warns Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
Unions have pointed to the fact that Ryanair is still actively recruiting new pilots and cabin crew – including in the UK. Job adverts remain active on the Ryanair website and hiring events are scheduled to take place in several cities across the UK in August and September.
With passenger numbers set to grow at the airline by around 3% over the next 12-months, campaigners say there’s absolutely no need to make staff redundant. The results of strike ballots for pilots in the UK and Ireland are set to be announced on or after 7th August.