Ryanair hit by Ireland pilot Christmas strike

A Ryanair plane is seen at Lisbon's airport, Portugal June 24, 2016.

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A Ryanair plane is seen at Lisbon’s airport, Portugal June 24, 2016.
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REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

  • Ryanair pilots who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) will strike on Wednesday 20 December as part of a dispute over workers’ rights.
  • Ryanair says action threatened by less than 28% of Dublin pilots.

LONDON – Ryanair pilots who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) will strike on Wednesday 20 December as part of a dispute over workers’ rights.

A statement from IMPACT, the parent organisation of the IALPA, said pilots – mostly captains – backed industrial action by a margin of 96% to 4% in secret ballots conducted over the last week.

“Ryanair will deal with any such disruptions if, or when they arise, and we apologise sincerely to customers for any upset or worry this threatened action by less than 28% of our Dublin pilots may cause them over the coming days,” Ryanair said in an e-mailed statement.

“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,” the company said.

The dispute centres around Ryanair’s refusal to recognise trade unions, including the IALPA. The airline insists that any discussion of pay and working conditions should be discussed through management-controlled “employee representative councils.”

It is unclear how many flights will be grounded. The statement from IMPACT said that 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.

It warned of further strike days if an agreement is not reached.

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,” he said.

“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.”

The airline previously threatened to freeze promotions, cut cash allowances, and move pilots to other bases if they voted in favour of industrial action in a separate dispute.

The airline is battling to regain its reputation following a series of high-profile blunders which has seen it cancel thousands of flights this year. A pilot rostering error in September led to the company cancelling thousands of flights from last week, a move which affected over 700,000 bookings.