Ryanair sticks to its guns in Dutch base closure row
Unyielding approach a reminder airline does not want to be seen as a ‘soft touch’ by unions
Ryanair closed its Eindhoven base on Monday. Photograph: Reuters
Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary last month floated the prospect that its pan-European industrial relations woes could be resolved “this side of Christmas”, as it seeks deals with unions across the continent.
And if O’Leary can make peace with Ryanair’s Irish-based pilots and unions – with whom he traded barbs for years before striking a deal – he can make peace with anyone.
But just in case anybody thinks Ryanair or its forceful chief executive have come over all soft in the airline’s view of trade unionists, just take a look at its approach this month to a dispute with pilots in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven. It is vintage old Ryanair.
Ryanair sought to shut its base in the city, not long after Dutch pilots joined up for industrial action in the summer at the same time that the airline was under pressure from proposed strike action in Ireland, Germany and elsewhere. Local representatives accused it of shutting the base in retaliation and sued.
A Dutch court last week agreed that the base closure appears to be a form of retaliation for earlier strikes. It said it was unable to block Ryanair from closing the base, but it ordered that the airline would have to keep paying the salaries of local pilots who refused to relocate to other bases.
If you have to keep paying the staff anyway, what is the point in closing the base when the cost-saving incentive has been removed?
Ryanair, however, has ignored all external pressure and went ahead and closed its Eindhoven base anyway on Monday, although it will surely uphold the court’s ruling with regards payment. Local Dutch media reported on Monday evening that unions were scrambling to assemble an injunction case.
“All pilots and cabin crew have already been offered base transfers, which protects their seniority and earnings, but if any crew members wish to choose redundancies over base transfers then we will respect that choice,” said Ryanair.
It sounds like a Hobson’s choice. Its unyielding approach in Eindhoven is a reminder that Ryanair does not want to be seen as a “soft touch” by unions. Events in Eindhoven would certainly support that viewpoint.