Ryanair puts pressure on pilots to accept pay offer

Memo warns pilots not to be misled by ‘false promises’ of unions

Ryanair’s current pay offer for its pilots would see a pay rise of up to €22,000 for captains and up to €11,000 for first officers depending on where they are based. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

Ryanair’s current pay offer for its pilots would see a pay rise of up to €22,000 for captains and up to €11,000 for first officers depending on where they are based. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

 

Ryanair is piling the pressure on pilots to accept its pay offer as the low-cost airline fights to overcome a crisis over the cancellation of more than 20,000 flights, triggered by a shortage of cockpit crew.

In a new memo to pilots sent on Thursday evening, Eddie Wilson, Ryanair’s chief people officer, warned that they risked losing out on big pay rises next month if they are “misled by the false promises” of unions.

It comes just days after Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, wrote a letter to pilots promising them the airline would exceed rivals’ rates of pay and improve job security.

However, the offer of the Irish carrier, Europe’s largest by number of passengers, faces a chilly response from some pilots. Many have joined European unions in recent weeks, as well as forming an independent European employee representative council (EERC) to represent their views collectively to management.

Ryanair currently only negotiates with employee representative councils from individual bases, and does not recognise trade unions.

The independent EERC has warned pilots against accepting new pay deals being offered by Ryanair to individual bases over the coming weeks.

In his memo to pilots, Mr Wilson reiterated that Ryanair would not meet any union group. “We will not enter into writing, or meetings, with competitor airline pilots/unions, or whatever they call themselves this week . . . whose sole aim is to prevent you from accessing a big pay increase next month,” he wrote.

He added: “The only way to ensure that your base shares in this upside – from November – is to support your ERCs reaching agreement over the next three weeks. If this doesn’t happen, then these pay increases may be delayed until December, or next year, or not delivered at all.”

Regulatory change

Ryanair is working on containing the damage after it was forced to cancel 20,000 of its 800,000 flights between September and March. It cut the flights because of a regulatory change that required airlines to calculate crew flying hours over a calendar year, instead of its own fiscal year. That left it with too few standby pilots on its roster.

The first, abrupt cancellation of 2,000 flights late last month with little or no notice led to chaos for thousands of passengers who found themselves stranded far from home. Its second cancellation saw a further 18,000 flights grounded.

After days of confusion, the UK Civil Aviation Authority accused Mr O’Leary and Ryanair of deliberately misleading stranded passengers about compensation and rights to be rebooked on other airlines. It demanded the carrier rectify these breaches or face legal action.

The Irish carrier still faces the challenge of overcoming its pilot issues. Brian Strutton, general secretary of British Airline Pilots’ Association, last week said Ryanair pilots believed Mr O’Leary “still doesn’t get” their grievances.

They are asking for better working conditions and for its EERC to be the recognised representative body for Ryanair pilots.

Ryanair’s current offer will see a pay rise of up to €22,000 for captains and up to €11,000 for first officers depending on where they are based.

Last week, the airline announced that Michael Hickey, its chief operating officer who was in charge of rostering, would leave the company at the end of the month.

In a statement on Thursday, Ryanair said it had added 860 pilots so far this year, 45 of whom joined this week. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)

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