US union leader to meet Ryanair pilots

Meeting to take place as Ryanair pilots push for collective bargaining

The stand-off between pilots and Ryanair management has simmered since the airline was forced to cancel more than 20,000 flights. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

The stand-off between pilots and Ryanair management has simmered since the airline was forced to cancel more than 20,000 flights. Photograph: Paul Faith/Getty Images

 

The leader of the pilots’ union at the US airline on which Ryanair reputedly modelled itself will meet the Irish carriers’ fliers later this week.

A group of Ryanair pilots is pushing for collective bargaining to replace the airline’s current system of negotiating separately with staff from each base.

It has emerged that Capt Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association, intends to meet Ryanair pilots in Dublin later this week.

Capt Weaks’s association represents pilots at Southwest Airlines, the US no-frills carrier on which Ryanair is said to have originally been modelled. It is one the most powerful unions in North American aviation.

The US union is one of a number that have signalled support for the European Employee Representative Council (EERC), the body seeking collective representation for Ryanair pilots.

The EERC is calling for a wage increase turned down by London Stansted crews to be doubled and extended across the airline’s 87 European bases. The council made the proposal after cockpit crews at Ryanair’s biggest base rejected an offer from management, according to a document sent to pilots on Sunday.

News agency Bloomberg reported that the group had asked for feedback from air crew and had pledged to organise strikes if a deal could not be reached.

In a push for changes to working conditions, 60 per cent of pilots at Stansted on Friday voted against a raise that would have boosted pay to about 20 per cent more than rivals Norwegian and Jet2 – airlines which, like Ryanair, fly Boeing 737s.

Pay demand

The pilot group is seeking an increase in basic pay to £150,000 sterling (€168,000) for captains across the company, compared with £64,000 currently.

The deal that the airline offered Stansted captains came to a total of £135,600, including basic pay of £74,000. More than 10 bases have accepted management’s existing offer for an increase of as much as £22,000, including bonuses.

Ryanair says the EERC has “no status or validity” and that its demands are of no value when the airline is recruiting pilots at higher rates from rivals, including Norwegian and Jet2.

“Given that Ryanair pilot pay is now 20 per cent higher than competitors’, we will have no difficulty attracting new pilots over the coming 12 months,” it said.

Ryanair has already said that it “will continue to engage with the London Stansted employee representative council to understand how it can address their remaining concerns”.

The stand-off between pilots and Ryanair management has simmered since planning problems airline forced the airline to cancel more than 20,000 flights affecting about 700,000 customers.

Ryanair negotiates with pilots through employee representative councils at each base. The EERC, which emerged after the cancellations, wants it to deal collectively with them at a regional level.

Mark Simpson, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers, predicted in a report to investors that the company would “firmly reject” its demands.

Ryanair last week announced that its former head of flights operations, Peter Bellew, will rejoin the airline as chief operations officer in December. He will succeed Michael Hickey, who announced his resignation this month, and will have responsibility for pilots.

Mr Bellew is leaving his job as chief executive of Malaysia Airlines to rejoin his old employer. – (Additional reporting: Bloomberg)

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