The latest on possible strike action by Ryanair pilots

How it all started?
Ryanair faces the threat of pre-Christmas industrial action in three European markets, in the form of its first pilots’ strike. Pilots in Italy have voted to strike for four hours on 15 December, while colleagues in Dublin are voting on whether to follow suit, just days after Portuguese pilots voted in favour of industrial action. 
Ryanair brushed off the risk of fresh disruption, insisting that previous threatened strikes had failed to materialiseHowever, while the airline has yet to suffer a walk out by pilots, its relationship with them has been increasingly strained following 20,000 flight cancellations caused by problems with its rostering schedule. And it hinted at growing concern by warning pilots in Dublin that they could see pay and conditions cut if they voted to join the Italian and Portuguese action. 
In a memo to captains and first officers based in Dublin, the Irish airline said it would freeze promotions, cut cash allowances and move pilots to different bases if they supported industrial action during ballots being held this week.  
Ryanair’s Irish pilot workforce were then balloted by Impact, the Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade union, of which Ialpa (the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association) is a branch, returning a large majority in favour of striking, with the date set as December 20, for a period of 24 hours.
The dispute centred on Ryanair pilots’ desire to negotiate terms via the collective European Employee Representative Council – which encompasses staff at all bases – rather than each of the company’s 87 bases agreeing terms separately. Pilots in Portugal also voted in favour of industrial action.

A letter to Ryanair from the Ialpa branch of the union, said the staff were preparing for industrial action should Ryanair fail to see Ialpa as the representative body for its pilots, commence disciplinary proceedings against any Ialpa members or reduce their pay or change their terms or conditions of employment.

What has Ryanair said?
Having originally said it would “face down” the industrial action, Ryanair said this week it would change its policy of not recognising unions as long as the bodies were exclusively Ryanair pilots, rather than, say, Ryanair and Aer Lingus, as Ialpa was.

“Ryanair now calls on these pilot unions to call off the threatened industrial action on [December 20] next so that our customers can look forward to travelling home for Christmas without the threat or worry of pilot strikes hanging over them,” the airline said in a statement.

Michael O’Leary, the airline’s combative chief executive, said: “Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week.

“If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognise them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week.

“Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before, most recently when we launched Ryanair Labs and our highly successful Always Getting Better customer improvement programme in 2013.

“Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognised national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year.”

This is unprecedented from O’Leary and Ryanair who have repeatedly said they would never deal with unions, so this could be good news for pilots and Ryanair. If the airline can head off strike action and lay the foundations for a more positive relationship with its pilots for the future, it could banish the memory of a challenging year.

Come New Year, the airline will toast the back of a torrid year, in which it had to repeatedly defend its random seating policy before dealing with the fallout of cancelling hundreds of thousands of bookings due to rostering issues.

What’s more is the airline will celebrate another record year of passengers carried. As of the end of November, Ryanair’s traffic was up 11 per cent on last year to 128.7million, a figure which puts its year’s total at around 140million, 23 million more than last year. Still impressive results despite the challenges in 2017, there appears to be no stopping Ryanair.


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