Ryanair braces for new round of strikes in Europe

Ryanair’s Irish pilots are preparing to strike again on Friday at the start of a new wave of industrial action against the no-frills carrier in Europe. The strike is the fourth in Ireland for Europe’s second biggest airline, and will affect 20 out of 300 flights in and out of the country that day. In a statement on Wednesday, the Irish airline offered to meet the Irish pilots on Saturday or next week “so we can get down to the serious work of resolving this dispute”.

The Swedish pilots union Svensk Pilotforening (SPF) also on Wednesday said its members intended to strike on 10 August. The union said Ryanair “had consistently refused to meet with and negotiate with representatives of SPF”, accusing the airline of wanting to choose its own negotiating team from the union. The SPF said around 40 pilots at Skavsta airport, 100 km southwest of Stockholm, would go on strike. The union was not able to say how many flights would be affected, and there was no immediate word from Ryanair. Dutch and German pilots have also voted for strike action.

“Ryanair needs a wake-up call and a strike in the Netherlands might be the only solution,” the Dutch Airline Pilots Association said in a statement. The union said that Dutch law should be applied to Ryanair contracts and there should be “no more bogus self-employment and a sufficient sick pay and pension”. The German union Vereinigung Cockpit gave Ryanair until 6 August to submit a proposal for negotiation, noting that talks last Friday had broken down with no agreement.

“Since the start of our negotiations in January, Ryanair has been playing for time and even if Ryanair is not taking this ballot seriously, industrial action like in other European countries seems unavoidable in Germany as well,” the union said.

Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, averted widespread strikes before Christmas by deciding to recognise trade unions for the first time in its 32-year history. But it has since struggled to reach agreement on terms with several of them. The airline was hit by a round of strikes last week affecting 600 flights in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The airline said the 100,000 affected passengers had all been put on alternative flights or would receive refunds. Unions want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as staff employees. They are also seeking that Ryanair staff be employed according to the national legislation of the country they work in, rather than that of Ireland as is currently the case, which blocks the workers’ access to state benefits.

The Irish pilots’ strike is focused on working arrangements, including annual leave and promotions. Ryanair argues that since its planes fly under the Irish flag and most of its employees work onboard planes, its staff are covered by Irish law. The airline published on its website salary slips for June, arguing that pilots and cabin crew are fairly paid and could earn up to €40,000 per year.

Ryanair is Europe’s biggest budget airline by passenger numbers, and the second biggest overall behind Germany’s Lufthansa.

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