Pilots call on Ryanair shareholders to push for ‘decent working conditions’

Investors should recognise employees’ value, says European pilots’ association

Ryanair cancellations: the airline says that 305,000 alternative routings or refunds – or more than 97 per cent of affected customers – have been processed. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Ryanair cancellations: the airline says that 305,000 alternative routings or refunds – or more than 97 per cent of affected customers – have been processed. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Ryanair’s decision to cancel more than 2,000 flights between now and the end of October has “exposed structural deficiencies in its business and employment model and a deep disconnect between Ryanair management and its pilots”, a leading pilots’ organisation has said.

The European Cockpit Association, which represents 38,000 pilots, also called on the airline’s biggest shareholders to push for structural change and social dialogue.

The association, which opposes Ryanair’s anti-union stance, said pilots across Europe supported staff demands for significant changes to their terms and conditions and for Ryanair pilots to unite as a group.

“Ryanair pilots from numerous European bases sent joint letters to their management. These letters are crystal clear. Ryanair’s pilots are taking a firm and unified stance: they want decent working conditions and direct employment contracts,” said the association’s vice-president, Jon Horne.

“They offered a helping hand to their company, to sort out this self-inflicted chaos that has left thousands of passengers stranded. In return, Ryanair pilots haven’t asked for a crude bonus. They want something much simpler: a direct and stable employment contract, governed by the laws of the country where they live and work, in conditions similar to other European pilots, and a meaningful, genuine social dialogue”.

Self-employed pilots

Mr Horne questioned the airline’s use of contractors and self-employed pilots to provide services through temporary agencies and pointed out that many pilots are not paid if their planes don’t fly.

“Such working arrangements have a negative impact on working conditions, as they can have the effect of limiting access to fundamental benefits, such as paid vacation, sickness or maternity leave. This provides flexibility and a lower cost base but also a highly unstable pilot workforce – as demonstrated by the short time pilots stay at Ryanair,” he said.

Mr Horne said the airline’s employment model is under pressure from investigations in Germany and by the European Court of Justice’s recent judgment that the location of crews’ home bases was a key factor in deciding which country’s labour laws applied to them. Ryanair’s long-standing position was that its crew were employed under Irish law and that any contract disputes fell under Irish jurisdiction.

“This European court judgment cannot be ignored by Ryanair management, nor by institutional investors,” said Philip von Schöppenthau, the European Cockpit Association’s secretary general. “As Ryanair’s management is busy finding quick-fix solutions, we call on investors to take a moment and think about the long-term sustainability of the company and one of its most valuable assets: the employees. We see today that planes still need crews to fly them and to bring their passengers safely to their destination.”

Ryanair has meanwhile said that by Sunday 305,000 alternative routings or refunds – or more than 97 per cent of affected customers – had been processed, with the remaining 3 per cent yet to contact the airline.