Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Hundreds of flights cancelled across Europe in Ryanair strike

Kenny Jacobs Ryanair’s chief marketing officer at a news conference in Germany yesterday Kenny Jacobs Ryanair’s chief marketing officer at a news conference in Germany yesterdayRALPH ORLOWSKI REUTERS
Priscilla Morrison | 10 August, 2018, 15:53

In response to unions serving Ryanair strike notices, Europe's largest low-priced carrier has announced in recent days the cancellations of 250 flights in and out Germany, 104 to and from Belgium and another 42 in Sweden and its home market of Ireland, where around a quarter of its pilots were staging their fifth 24-hour walkout.

A total of around 400 flights Europewide have been cancelled due to the strike action, AFP reported - equating to around 55,000 passengers.

Under EU rules, Ryanair should be forced to offer passsengers a refund, an alternative flight, or a flight with another airline; along with compensation for the trouble.

The Irish budget airline said the strikes were "regrettable and unjustified" and called for unions to come back to the negotiating table.

The trade union Cockpit said 480 Germany-based pilots were not expected to return to work until 2.59 a.m. Saturday.

"Ryanair alone is responsible for the escalation we are now seeing", Cockpit president Martin Locher said earlier this week.

A Dutch court on Thursday evening rejected a case from Ryanair seeking to block pilots in the Netherlands from joining the strike, affecting about 22 flights.

The VNV said it has been negotating with Ryanair over a pay-and-conditions agreement for eight months without making any progress.

This is not the first Ryanair strike in recent months; in July, cabin staff in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium walked out for similar reasons, causing 600 flights to be cancelled.

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Ryanair built its low-priced business model without unions, but said past year it would recognise them.

Since then, however, it has struggled to reach agreements.

The unions are demanding a raise in salaries, unions say, alongside the issuing of more secure working contracts that are valid in each pilot's country of residence (which they claim does not always happen). This can mean staff based in other European states are unable to gain access to state benefits. But a court said yesterday Ryanair pilots in the Netherlands could not be prevented from doing so. If the strike goes ahead, it will hit mainly passengers travelling from Eindhoven.

The airline has said that 85% of their flights will take off, "carrying nearly 400,000 customers across Europe".

Customers were notified as early as possible and a majority of those affected had already been moved to another Ryanair flight, the airline added.

Ryanair has repeatedly said it remained open to further talks with pilot representatives. "They all received a 20% pay rise this year".

The unrest is one of the biggest challenges to face long-term chief executive Michael O'Leary, who was once quoted as saying he would rather cut off his hand than recognise unions and on another occasion crossed a picket line of baggage handlers to help load a plane.

It has already threatened to move part of its Dublin fleet to Poland, which could cost 300 jobs, including 100 pilot positions.

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