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Nearly 60 Ryanair pilot reps from across Europe sign letter to Michael O'Leary calling for collective bargaining rights

In the letter – seen by TheJournal.ie – representatives said that pilots wanted to be represented with “one collective voice”.

File photo
File photo
Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

PILOT REPRESENTATIVES FROM Ryanair bases across Europe have written a letter to company management, asking for employees to be allowed collective bargaining rights over pay and conditions.

The letter – which is titled “A collective message to our CEO” - is signed by 59 ERCs from Ryanair bases across Europe. ERCs are employee representatives at bases whose role involves meeting with management over staff issues and collective bargaining.

The ERCs were introduced as Ryanair does not allow negotiations with third party pilot unions. Ryanair has a total of 86 bases spread out across Europe and in north Africa. In the past it has dealt with the ERCs from each base separately (rather than as a collective unit).

TheJournal.ie understands that this is the first time ERCs from across Europe have put their names to a collective letter to management in this fashion.

In the letter – seen by TheJournal.ie - the ERCs said that pilots wanted to be represented with “one collective voice”.

“We seek direct negotiations with the company management. We refuse to be divided any longer into 86 groups across Europe,” the ERCs said.

“This arrangement was imposed by management, but has never served our interests. It is time for this failed arrangement to stop.

We will decide for ourselves how we wish to be represented in future. We are not forming a Ryanair pilots union as you have mistakenly claimed.

The issue around pilots’ pay and conditions has been to the forefront in recent months following the announcement of a large spate of Ryanair flight cancellations at the end of September.

The airline came in from strong criticism after it cancelled 2,100 flights between September and October and a further 18,000 between November and March.

Ryanair put this down to a rostering issue around having to allocate too much leave in the final months of the year. There have been numerous reports that the cancellations are down to large numbers of pilots leaving the airline, but Ryanair has repeatedly denied this.

“Equality at the negotiating table”

In the letter to management, the ERCs – which are made up of Ryanair captains and first officers – said that what they are seeking is “equality at the negotiating table”.

“Our aim is simple: to have equality at the negotiating table and to independently verify that our contractual arrangements comply with the laws of the countries in which we are based,” the pilots said.

To this end the pilots last month formed the joint European Employee Representative Council (EERC), with the aim of negotiating with management from employees across its European bases.

Ryanair has said that it does not recognise the EERC and will not negotiate with pilots in this fashion.

“Your insistence that you will only negotiate with us through individual bases clearly shows that they are out of touch with our concerns,” the letter reads.

Your rejection of our simple requests and your continued efforts to push a new pay deal onto individual bases clearly shows that you have not listened to us.

Ryanair pilots at a number of bases – including Madrid, Dublin and London Stanstead – have recently rejected pay deals from management.

In the letter, the ERCs said that a draft conditions and pay proposals document had been released to pilots by the EERC last week.

“We will complete that document in the very near future,” said the pilots.

“It covers many areas of concern to us, which management have ignored for years.

These areas need to be negotiated and addressed if Ryanair is to have a chance of retaining and recruiting pilots in the future.

The ERCs also raise issues like pay and conditions, saying that the current pay at Ryanair is “not aligned with industry standards”.

They said that the “underlying reasons for the cancellation of flights have not been addressed”.

The ERCs finish the letter by saying that they regret that management will not recognise their right to negotiate collectively.

“Our requirement is simple – a transparent representation system which supports genuine negotiations, to create a collective pilots agreement covering all bases, with legal contracts that comply with the laws of the countries in which we are based,” the ERCs said.

Please listen to our reasonable request to avoid further damage being done to our company

Ryanair’s response

In response to the letter, a spokesperson from Ryanair said that it has repeatedly confirmed that it will not engage with this “so-called EERC”.

Ryanair said that the current ERC system at the airline was not imposed by management, but was agreed and utilised by both Ryanair and all of its pilot bases for over 25 years in order to vote to approve pay and conditions improvements.

“As the Irish Supreme Court has ruled, the Base ERC system meets all the requirements of a sophisticated collective bargaining process and has done so for over 25 years,” the spokesperson said.

While these pilot unions continue to send meaningless letters to the media, Ryanair is continuing to agree new pay deals with over 15 ERC bases and this process of bringing Ryanair pilots’ pay up to over €150,000 p.a. which is more than 20% higher than Jet 2 or Norwegian 737 pilots.

The airline also said it had recruited over 1,000 new pilots in 2017 to day and that many other pilots from other airlines were also applying to the airline.

Read: Despite disruption Ryanair’s passengers, revenue, and profits all rose in the first half of the year

Read: Ryanair tells pilots they will likely have to take all their annual leave in first three months of next year

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