Ryanair ponders legal action to prevent looming strike by pilots

Airline may tell courts pilots had not fully exhausted mediation before serving notice

Ryanair argues that Ialpa’s demands would see some pilots doubling their pay to €346,000 a year. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

Ryanair argues that Ialpa’s demands would see some pilots doubling their pay to €346,000 a year. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

 

Ryanair may take legal action to prevent pilots based in the Republic from striking next week in a dispute over pay.

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) – part of trade union Fórsa – employed by Ryanair, told the carrier they would strike on August 22nd and 23rd after talks chaired by mediator Kieran Mulvey collapsed.

Ryanair argues that Ialpa’s demands would see some pilots doubling their pay to €346,000 a year, while the union accuses the airline of failing to respond meaningfully to its pay claim.

It is understood that Ryanair is considering asking the courts to halt the strike on the grounds that the pilots had not fully exhausted the mediation process before serving notice of their industrial action.

Ialpa and Ryanair agreed last year to refer any issue in dispute to the mediator, without recourse to industrial action, after Mr Mulvey stepped in between the sides following several one-day strikes by the pilots’ union.

However, Ialpa declared that the mediation process had failed before officials and members of the union’s Ryanair pilots’ committee walked out of a meeting on Wednesday aimed at averting the strike.

Eddie Wilson, Ryanair’s chief people officer, argued that Ialpa opted out of mediation to time its strike to coincide with a two-day stoppage planned by members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association next week.

‘Maximum damage’

“They want to go out on the bank holiday weekend in the UK to try to do maximum damage to this company,” he said.

A Fórsa spokesman responded that Ryanair could avoid a strike by providing a “meaningful counter proposal” to its pay claim. He also stated that the union had legitimately balloted its members on industrial action.

Ryanair says that Ialpa is demanding pay increases of up to 100 per cent. Figures produced by the airline show that applying the union’s demand to its current pay structure would result in a captain who is paid a total of €172,337 a year earning €346,499 if it agreed to the union’s terms.

The airline says it pays captains a basic salary of €84,655 along with allowances, and bonuses, including extra payments if they are qualified to train other pilots.

Other company calculations show that a captain earning €157,290 would receive €247,103, a 57 per cent increase, under Ialpa’s proposals.

A third shows a captain now getting €155,181 getting a 90 per cent increase to €294,822. Another example has a first officer on €73,545 a year – comprising €25,400 basic pay, bonuses and allowances – getting a 65 per cent boost to €121,401.

Salary claims

Mr Wilson said Ialpa did not respond when Ryanair put the figures to its officials on Wednesday. He added that seeking a 100 per cent increase at a time when the airline may have to cut up to 900 jobs was not viable.

Fórsa’s spokesman accused Ryanair of being selective. He maintained that few of the airline’s pilots were on salaries as high as those quoted by the company.

Some 102 of 109 Ialpa members balloted voted for industrial action last week. The union’s total membership in Ryanair is 180 while the airline employs about 420 pilots in the Republic.

Ryanair maintained 90 per cent of its schedule during five one-day strikes by Ialpa last year. Mr Wilson indicated that it would take a similar approach to managing any stoppages next week.

Last year’s strikes ended after Mr Mulvey, former director general of the Workplace Relations Commission, agreed to mediate between the sides. Since then, Ryanair and Ialpa have struck four agreements covering the issues that sparked last year’s industrial action, including seniority and base transfers.