Ryanair pilots reject bonus and threaten to work to rule

Further flight cancellations loom as airline’s roster solution deemed inadequate

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has apologised to more than 300,000 people who will be directly impacted by the airline’s rolling programme of flight cancellations.

 

Ryanair pilots have rejected a bonus scheme offered by the company to entice them to work through their annual leave raising fears that more flight cancellations could be on the cards. These fears stem from the rejection of the offer as well as reports of a letter being circulated among some pilots calling for a work-to rule by colleagues.

Earlier this week, the airline wrote to pilots offering them bonus payments of up to €12,000, deferred for a year, if they surrendered some of their annual leave entitlements. The offer was made to try and manage roster issues which have led to the cancellation of thousands of flights between now and the end of October.

However, the Employee Representative Councils which represents staff at 17 Ryanair bases said the majority of their colleagues had rejected the proposals saying it was “not an adequate offer and is being met with great resistance”.

The ERC made a counter offer aimed at improving their terms and conditions. The letter calls for “professional negotiators” to be brought in to facilitate the talks, a suggestion that is likely to enrage management at the fiercely anti-union airline. It says its offer “is far more simple, but more constructive to resolve the operational problems we are facing at the moment and create a positive future”.

Negotiating partner

It points out the “pilot market is changing” and says Ryanair “will need to change the ways which the pilots and management work together to ensure a stable and common future for everyone”. Among the changes the pilots group proposes are permanent local contracts for all employees according to the national law and rights. Its regional teams would operate “in a co-ordinated manner to achieve common working conditions throughout the Ryanair network, but allowing for differences in local law as well as pay scales and will be recognised by Ryanair management as negotiating partner”.

It says contracts would be “based on benchmarks with comparable competitors for each individual region, this should help stop the large number of colleagues who are leaving for ‘greener pastures’”.

It wants new contracts to be designed by January 1st and adds that as “pilots are not trained as negotiators, we will be bringing professional assistance to our negotiations. We ask you to agree to the above and we, as a pilot group, will support your attempts to achieve the support and flexibility from the pilot body for the followings weeks to make sure the cancellations will be minimised and our customers will enjoy our high-performance operation that they are used to.”

Meanwhile, reports of a “work to rule” among Ryanair pilots which could put even more pressure on flight schedules across Europe have been circulating.

Rescinding goodwill

According to the reports, a letter circulated at some Ryanair bases states that “with immediate effect, the pilot workforce at the bases [airports] listed below rescind the goodwill that has been extended toward the company for many years, including working days off and turning up early. In short, we shall now ‘work to rule’.”

The letter which has not yet been sent and has not been signed by all pilots raises question marks over the bonus offer on multiple grounds, including that pilots must have worked 800 flight hours in a year to be eligible for the tax-free bonus. “Pilots have checked their logbooks and many have never achieved 800 flight hours in a single 12-month period ever,” it says.

The letter also objects to “ambiguity” surrounding the offer’s conditions, including the number of days off they would be required to work to get the bonus and whether enough days would even be allocated by Ryanair.

Pilots at the airline’s bases across Europe are still in discussions over whether to sign the letter. Many of its 4,200 pilots work on a contract basis and are not unionised

It refers to pilots’ strong bargaining position in the current climate and points out that Ryanair “faces a pilot shortage and even if this is only for a short period of time, the reputational damage” could be “extremely long-lasting both in terms of customer and shareholder confidence”.

When contacted about the rejection of the bonus offer and the draft letter suggesting a work to rule, a spokesman for Ryanair said “We will address this at the agm [on Thursday].”

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