US pilot union leaders meet Ryanair pilots in Dublin and London

Ryanair pilot problems could be solved at cost of a euro per ticket, US union chief says

Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association president Capt Jon Weaks and Allied Pilots’ Association president Capt Dan Carey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association president Capt Jon Weaks and Allied Pilots’ Association president Capt Dan Carey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Capt Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) and Capt Dan Carey, president of the Allied Pilots’ Association (APA) met Ryanair pilots in Dublin and London over the last two days.

Following the Dublin meeting, both men, who represent almost 24,000 US pilots in Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, said the turnout indicated that current efforts to introduce a new collective bargaining system at the non-unionised Irish carrier could succeed.

“It was standing room only at both meetings,” Capt Carey noted, “and that’s taking into account that around half the pilots are flying on any given day.”

He and Capt Weaks said Ryanair pilots should back the new European Employee Representative Council (EERC) that a number of them are seeking to establish within the airline.

They also called on them to join local unions, including the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association, the British Airline Pilots’ Association and the equivalent organisations in other European countries, which would give them legal protection.

“We are trying to help them with logistics, research and financial data,” Capt Weaks said. “We can help with showing how to use communications effectively and with talking to investors.”

Capt Carey echoed this and indicated that his organisation was willing to provide training in areas such as dealing with the media and negotiating with management.

The EERC wants to replace Ryanair’s existing employee representative councils, which represent pilots at each of its 87 bases individually, with regionally-based collective representation. The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has said it will not deal with the new group.

Rostering difficulties

Reports of unrest at the airline emerged following news that rostering difficulties forced it to cancel flights up to next March, affecting almost 700,000 customers. Ryanair has said that pilots are not leaving the company and that it has recruited crew from rivals.

The US union leaders called on the airline to take a collaborative approach to dealing with its staff, which they argued would benefit both sides.

Capt Weaks pointed out that Southwest Airlines share price had almost doubled since last year, when his union negotiated a new deal with the carrier that was 128 per cent better than the company originally offered his members.

According to Capt Carey, American Airlines can solve problems such as the rostering difficulties that hit Ryanair this autumn with “just one phone call” to him.

Capt Carey said Mr O’Leary was a skilled chief executive who had “built a great airline” but argued that Ryanair needed to change its industrial relations approach. He added that its problems could be addressed by adding less than a euro to the price of each ticket.

The airline responded that the EERC was made up of competitor airline unions and was a rerun of other organisations, such as the Ryanair Pilot Group, which were now defunct.

“If Ryanair pilots wish to adopt a collaborative approach, they should use the Supreme Court-approved employee representative council process,” the airline said.

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