Ryanair talks with pilots’ association in deadlock over venue

Airline wants to meet in its Swords headquarters while Ialpa wants neutral venue

A Ryanair Boeing plane takes off at Lisbon’s airport on Thursday. Cabin crew in Portugal, Belgium and Spain – Ryanair’s third largest market – plan 48-hour strikes on July 25th and 26th. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

A Ryanair Boeing plane takes off at Lisbon’s airport on Thursday. Cabin crew in Portugal, Belgium and Spain – Ryanair’s third largest market – plan 48-hour strikes on July 25th and 26th. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

 

Deadlock over a meeting venue is stalling talks on a possible resolution to next week’s threatened strike at Ryanair.

More than 100 directly employed members the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) – part of trade union Fórsa – plan a one-day strike on Thursday July 12th in a dispute over seniority, potentially disrupting thousands of travellers.

It emerged on Thursday that a disagreement between the union and the company over a venue for a meeting is preventing both sides from getting together to discuss any possible resolution to the dispute.

Ryanair wants to meet in its headquarters in Swords, close to Dublin Airport, while Ialpa wants it to take place in a neutral venue for which the union says it is willing to pay.

A Fórsa letter to the airline says its refusal to agree to this is “yet another example of a Ryanair view which is it’s either our way or no way”.

Ryanair chief people officer Eddie Wilson wrote to Fórsa official Angela Kirk on Thursday indicating that the airline believes holding the meeting at a neutral venue would create a “media circus”.

Ialpa-Fórsa has been demanding that the union and company meet in a neutral venue, as the pair initially did in December, for several months to discuss any proposals that Ryanair has made.

Breaking deadlock

One source indicated that getting the two sides to meet at a neutral venue at the behest of a third party offered by the best chance of breaking the deadlock. However, the source said that this was unlikely to happen.

Mr Wilson’s letter says that Fórsa official Ashley Connolly met Ryanair’s cabin crew committee at its offices last Friday, while her colleague, Michael Landers met the company twice there to discuss other issues relating to pilots.

A Fórsa spokesman said that it would not be unusual for an official of a branch that was not in dispute with a company to meet staff in its offices.

He said he was unable to confirm that Mr Landers had met with Ryanair at its headquarters.

The pair also clashed over a 20 per cent pay rise to which Ryanair says 85 per cent of Irish pilots have already agreed.

Fórsa’s letter states that Ialpa members have requested the union to confirm that they have not agreed a 20 per cent increase pilots’ pay, despite Ryanair’s claims.

Mr Wilson’s responds that “This 20 per cent increase has taken many of our Irish captains’ pay to between €180,000 and €200,000 per annum”.

The dispute with pilots is over a seniority agreement, a transparent system for managing issues such as the airline bases to which they are sent, transfers, annual leave and any other decisions linked to length of service.

Mr Wilson’s letter repeats Ryanair’s position that the strike is unnecessary. He says the airline has supplied the union with a seniority list for every Irish-based pilot, its base transfer policy and an annual leave system based on the list.

Extended invites

“Ryanair has now extended 20 invites to Fórsa to meet us at our Airside offices which is where we meet our people and their unions – including Fórsa,” he says.

The union said yesterday that based on Ryanair’s letters, its members believed that this was a management attempt to simply avert the dispute and that the airline had no intention of negotiating on what they believed were reasonable requirements.

Meanwhile, cabin crew in Portugal, Belgium and Spain – Ryanair’s third largest market – plan 48-hour strikes on July 25th and 26th. Cabin crew in Italy, the airline’s second biggest territory, will strike for one day on July 25th.

German pilot union VC said on Monday that it was balloting its members in Ryanair on industrial action following the failure of talks on improved pay and conditions.

The strike threats come during one of Ryanair’s busiest months when the Irish airline expects to carry in the region of 13 million passengers.

Cabin crew this week published a charter of demands covering pay, rosters, sick leave and contracts.

Ryanair said it paid these workers €40,000 a year and that they had stable five-day-on, three-day-off rosters that exceeded all safety requirements.

The airline pledged to recognise unions in December, reversing a long-standing industrial relations policy.