Ryanair's German Pilots to Strike on Friday Before Holiday

(Bloomberg) -- Ryanair Holdings Plc faces its first-ever pilot strike on the Friday before Christmas as a German union it has promised to recognize makes a show of force following a breakdown in initial negotiations.

Vereinigung Cockpit said Thursday that pilots will walk out from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. after the airline refused to meet with two of five representatives the labor group sent to talks. “Ryanair’s delegation did not even enter the room,” union President Ilja Schulz said. “We tried to see what could still be negotiated but it wasn’t much. Our lesson learnt is Ryanair has not changed a bit.”

Ryanair said the strike is “unjustified” given that the sides have agreed to meet again on Jan. 5, adding that the pilot council which attended the talks had not been elected by its own staff and contained one person who is currently in litigation with the company.

“We advise all customers in Germany to turn up as normal tomorrow, as we plan to operate all scheduled flights,” a Ryanair spokesman said in an email. “We will be doing our utmost to minimize any disruptions to the Christmas travel plans of our German customers.”

Irish Deal

Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary, who softened a longstanding anti-union stance last week, is under pressure to follow through on promises to recognize unions for pilots and flight attendants as he seeks to head off labor strife. The German union’s hardball move contrasts with solid progress in Ryanair’s home country of Ireland, showing just how bumpy the path toward a deal remains.

“It’s just a short strike and we don’t want to burden passengers too much ahead of Christmas,” the VC’s Schulz said. “Ryanair obviously doesn’t believe the VC can organize a strike, or that their pilots in Germany are fed up. So we will have to show them the pilots mean what they say.”

In a letter to the union obtained by Bloomberg, Eddie Wilson, Ryanair’s chief people office, proposed an agenda for the January meeting while saying the union delegation should be composed of VC officials and “currently employed Ryanair pilots in Germany.”

The company said it has since written directly to German pilots asking them to work as normal on Friday to avoid disrupting pre-Christmas travel. Passengers should consult the Ryanair.com website for the latest updates, it said.

Bargaining Power

Earlier on Thursday, Europe’s largest discount carrier sent a letter confirming that the Impact union will now represent Irish pilots for collective bargaining, the labor group confirmed. It had given Ryanair until noon to devise “concrete” proposals after the company failed to submit written terms at a meeting late Tuesday.

“Impact will now immediately start work to make union recognition in Ryanair a practical reality,” it said in a statement, adding that the possibility of industrial action has “receded for the present.” Ryanair said separately that it had formally recognized Impact while also submitting proposals on issues including pay and dispute resolution.

Ryanair has said that it also plans to move on to recognize flight-attendant unions in the new year. The bargaining power of employees was boosted in recent months after a rostering mixup led 20,000 flights to be scrapped.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.