Ryanair Faces Biggest Ever Strike as Pilot Talks End
(Bloomberg) -- Ryanair Holdings Plc is braced for its biggest ever strike Thursday after talks with pilots in its Irish home market broke down.
Negotiations were adjourned Wednesday with “very little progress to report,” Forsa union spokesman Niall Shanahan said in an emailed statement, adding that the walkout is set to go ahead.
Ryanair cockpit crews plan to strike for 24 hours from 1 a.m. Dublin time, with as many as 30 flights due to be canceled by the discount airline. It’s only the second action taken by employees of the airline, which is locked in a series of wrangles after agreeing in December to recognize trade unions.
“At the outset today management made it clear to our delegation that they expected the strike to go ahead tomorrow,” Shanahan said. “That position didn’t change.” Talks got no further than a discussion of seniority issues and the possibility of establishing a working group, he said.
As many as 120 Ryanair pilots were balloted on industrial action, the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association said Wednesday, though it’s not clear how many are rostered for duty during the strike and what proportion of those will walk out. Ryanair said Tuesday it would scrap as many as 30 of its 290 flights at Irish airports during the action, all of them on routes to the U.K.
The carrier added in a statement Wednesday that all affected customers will be reimbursed or re-accommodated and that disruption will be “limited,” predicting that only 27 percent of pilots will walk out. It blamed Forsa for rejecting the offer of working groups after seven hours of talks.
Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit pilot union is also balloting Ryanair members in a dispute over pay and working conditions, with the outcome due later this month. Spanish, Portuguese and Belgian cabin crew are due to strike on July 25 and 26, with Italian flight attendants joining the action on July 25. And IALPA has said it plans to notify Ryanair of additional walkouts “in due course.”
Ryanair agreed to accept unions following a staffing crunch last year, in a major shift for a company whose Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary once said “hell would freeze over” before that happened.
Ryanair pilots in Germany walked out for a few hours in December, but the protest passed without major disruption. O’Leary warned in February that he was prepared to endure strikes rather than bend to union demands that would threaten the low-cost giant’s business model.
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