Pilot raises concerns of Ryanair colleagues with Michael O’Leary
Ryanair refuses to engage with European Employee Representative Committee
A pilot has written to Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary (above) over concerns of colleagues at the airline’s refusal to entertain collective bargaining. File photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images
Capt Imelda Comer hand-delivered the correspondence to Ryanair headquarters on Wednesday, breaking from the usual anonymity of staff representatives who are, the letter claims, “concerned about their security” in identifying themselves to management.
At the same time, the European Cockpit Association (EPA) body alerted members of the European Parliament to Capt Comer’s letter, saying “there are still companies in Europe that deny their employees effective access to the very fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining”.
In response, Ryanair said it would not engage with the “so-called” European Employee Representative Committee (EERC), the collective body of pilots Capt Comer was speaking for.
The exchange is the latest development in an ongoing stand-off between company and crew over how employment conditions should be negotiated. It follows the recent cancellation of thousands of flights due to difficulties with rosters.
In a recent memo to pilots, Ryanair advised them to accept a pay rise offer from next month and not to be “misled by the false promises” of unions.
Capt Comer told Mr O’Leary that previous letters representing pilots in 60 European bases had been ignored by the company but that the EERC “represents the views of the collective pilot body which wishes to proactively and constructively engage with the company to help resolve the current difficulties that continue to weigh on all of us”.
“The pilots’ representatives are concerned about their security when they reveal their identities.”
Independent third party
Among the requests repeated in her letter are that these representatives not be subjected to legal action by the airline; that potential disciplinary action would be dealt with by an independent third party, and that representative pilots would not lose average hours of employment as a consequence.
Ryanair’s policy is to only negotiate with employee representative councils (ERCs) from individual bases. It will not recognise trade unions.
However, Capt Comer said recent communications, signed by pilots in 60 bases, set out “requirements to address the ongoing difficulties” including permanent local contracts, the benchmarking of conditions with competitors, and that new contracts be agreed upon by January. In return, pilots would “surrender” leave to “help resolve the current problems”.
“Your insistence on only negotiating with pilots, and only dealing with individual bases, is clearly not in the interests of pilots,” the letter stated.
The status quo “will not resolve the deep-seated issues that have been imposed on pilots over the last 10 years”.
In response, a Ryanair statement dismissed the letter “from the so-called ‘EERC’ [as being] entirely disingenuous”. It said Capt Comer was a contractor pilot who has resigned from the company, leaving her position at the end of the month.
“We will not be corresponding with, or replying to, the false claims made by this so-called ‘EERC’ . . . or any other front set up by competitor pilot unions,” it said.
Those pilots who wished to negotiate pay rises of up to €22,000, it continued, could do so through the existing ERC structures “which have been validated by the Supreme Court of Ireland and have operated successfully for over 25 years without any invented claims about pilot ‘security’ ”.
“Ryanair wishes Ms Comer every success with her planned move to Asia. ”