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Ryanair pilots serve notice of strike five days before Christmas

The Irish-based pilots, mostly captains, backed industrial action by a margin of 94% to 6% in secret ballots conducted over the last week.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 3pm

RYANAIR PILOTS WHO are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) have this afternoon served company management with notice of a one-day strike on Wednesday 20 December.

Irish-based directly-employed pilots, mostly captains, will withdraw their labour in an action that trade union Impact, of which Ialpa is a branch, said will “either disrupt flights or generate substantial costs to the airline”.

The pilots backed industrial action by a margin of 94% to 6% in secret ballots conducted over the last week.

According to the union, the dispute is “over Ryanair management’s refusal to enter direct negotiations with the European Employee Representative Council (EERC) or Ialpa as the sole independent representative body for pilots working in the company”.

The airline has so far refused to recognise the EERC or Ialpa, and insists that any discussion of pay and working conditions be conducted through management-controlled ‘employee representative councils’.

‘They don’t care’

In a statement this afternoon, Ryanair said it will deal with any such disruption if it arises. It also apologised to customers for any upset or worry the threatened action may cause them.

The company said the threat comes from less than 28% of its pilots and accused what it referred to as an “Aer Lingus pilots union” of using the action to get union recognition.

Ryanair is surprised that IALPA has threatened to disrupt Christmas week travel when IALPA’s own numbers confirm that it has the support of less than 28% of Ryanair’s over 300 Dublin pilots and when Ryanair’s Belfast, Cork and Shannon bases have already agreed these 20% pay deals.
While some disruption may occur, Ryanair believes this will largely be confined to a small group of pilots who are working their notice and will shortly leave Ryanair, so they don’t care how much upset they cause colleagues or customers.
Ryanair has already confirmed that any Dublin pilots who participate in this industrial action will be in breach of the Dublin pilots base agreement and they will lose those agreed benefits which arise from dealing directly with Ryanair, including the 5on/4off rosters, certain pay benefits and promotion opportunities until such time as they chose to return to the 25 year established practice of dealing directly with Ryanair.

The airline said it’s “very well paid pilots” are free to join unions but it is also free to refuse to engage with them.

The Irish Travel Agents Assocition (ITAA) expressed concern about the announcement, with its president Cormac Meehan describing it as “very unsettling and worrying”.

“This industrial action could result in huge disruptions for Irish travellers, in particular for families who may be returning home for Christmas or planning to holiday aboard,” he said.

“All of our member travel agents will do their very best to minimise the inconvenience to customers by keeping them up to date with cancellations as well as assisting them with rebooking flights and changing travel plans.

“However, we are calling on Ryanair to engage with Ialpa and do their very best to stop this industrial action taking place. We would also ask that they keep customers up to date with any planned cancellations as soon as possible to ease the uncertainty faced by intending travellers and so that alternative holiday arrangements can be made.”

‘Failed negotiating model’

The union has warned of further strike days if an agreement is not reached.

“Although the number of employees involved in the strike is fewer than the total number of Irish-based Ryanair pilots, the action will have impact because planes cannot legally or safely fly without a captain,” Impact said.

Impact official Ashley Connolly said Ryanair was the only Irish-based airline that refuses to recognise independent pilot representatives.

“This dispute is solely about winning independent representation for pilots in the company. Management’s failed negotiating model has let down shareholders and tens of thousands of passengers, whose flights were cancelled this year because company-controlled industrial relations proved incapable of recruiting and retaining enough pilots, Connolly said.

“The failed policy threatens to further disappoint shareholders and passengers, and further damage the airline’s reputation, because experienced pilots continue to leave the airline in droves. This dispute is about securing a safe space for negotiations, with independent representation that pilots can have confidence in.”

The union said it has made repeated attempts to open discussions with airline management in recent months.

Read: Ryanair threatens Dublin pilots with pay and benefit cuts if they strike>

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