Ryanair Tells Dublin Pilots: Move to Poland or Risk Being Fired

(Bloomberg) -- Ryanair Holdings Plc is warning as many as 300 pilots and cabin crew to relocate to Poland or risk losing their jobs in Dublin.

Faced with intensifying labor strife that has led to Europe-wide flight disruptions this week, staff based in Ireland should seek transfers to faster-growing businesses like the discount carrier’s Polish charter unit, Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson advised in a letter dated Wednesday and seen by Bloomberg News.

A spokesman for the airline declined to comment.

The salvo is the latest in Ryanair’s battle against walkouts by workers from Ireland to Italy that have disrupted travel for thousands of people at the height of Europe’s summer vacation season. The strife shows how the carrier -- which refused to recognize unions for three decades as it disrupted the industry with a low-fare, no-frills model -- is now facing the same pressures as traditional airlines. In agreeing to accept unionization after a staffing crunch last year, it has now opened itself up to demands on pay and benefits.

Yet in characteristic defiance by the company to organized labor, Ryanair’s Wilson wrote that Dublin-based pilots and flight attendants are at risk of layoffs because its local fleet will be cut by a fifth this winter.

Blames Pilots

“We would encourage both pilots and cabin crew to update your base transfer requests as an immediate priority,” according to the letter, which added that most of the planes being pulled from Dublin will likely be taken to its Polish carrier, Ryanair Sun.

The airline said Wednesday it’ll cut its Irish fleet to 24 aircraft from 30, blaming pilot strikes for hurting bookings, fares and consumer confidence, and that letters have been sent informing more than 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew that their services may not be needed from Oct. 28.

The Irish union Forsa called the move “provocative” and announced a fourth day of pilot strikes in the country on Aug. 3. The airline responded with a post on Twitter that said it may cut more than 300 jobs if strikes “cause more damage to our Irish business.” It said it wouldn’t meet the union while it holds strikes, and added that the walkout next month would result in up to 20 flight cancellations.

Ryanair’s decision to cut jobs and move planes to Poland from Dublin “could look to Irish pilots and other people like a punishment for participation in strike action,” Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This does not give a good impression and is likely further to inflame the situation when what should be happening is both sides getting around the negotiating table to work out a new collective labor agreement,” he said.

The Irish government has so far declined to get involved in the conflict. “I’m not going to get involved in that industrial dispute at all,” Transport Minister Shane Ross said on RTE radio. “My worry is of course for everybody involved that they should get back to work because the passengers are being affected adversely.”

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