First pilots, now cabin crew – Ryanair to recognise other unions

Ryanair has said it will recognise cabin crew unions and hold meetings in the new year, as it prepared to start its first ever talks with pilots’ unions in Dublin on Tuesday.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, announced last week that it would recognise pilots’ unions in a bid to head off strikes planned in the run-up to Christmas.

The move marked a dramatic shift after decades of refusing to negotiate with unions and came after groups of pilots around Europe called strikes.

Ryanair’s announcement that it will also recognise cabin crew unions comes after renewed focus on its treatment of lower-paid staff. Crew have been warned of disciplinary proceedings for missing sales targets on scratchcards, while staff on Italian bases were threatened with collective sanctions if any member joined a strike called last week.

The Impact union, whose members include cabin crew, said it would be delighted to start talks in due course. A spokesman said the prospect of strike action in Ireland, originally called for Wednesday, had not gone away and that the mandate remained should Ryanair not properly meet requests for union representation.

The airline was due to meet German and Portuguese pilot unions this week, as well as representatives of Ialpa, a branch of the Impact union in Ireland.

A company spokesman said: “It will lead on in the new year to meetings with other EU pilot unions, and cabin crew unions in due course as well.”

Pilots had complained of a toxic atmosphere at Ryanair, where many had long been indirectly employed through third parties, an arrangement that had seen some pursued by tax authorities. There had also been problems about rostering and anger over disparaging comments made by the airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary.

According to a recording of a meeting obtained by the Irish Independent newspaper, Ryanair executives told pilots at Stansted last week that the airline had “grown too fast” and lost their trust, but was working hard to restore it.

Peter Bellew, chief operations officer of Ryanair, told the pilots he knew their problems had not been addressed. “Everywhere I turned, I could see that people were asking for small things to be done and they just weren’t getting done,” he was quoted as saying. “Or, not only were they not getting done, they were getting told: ‘Piss off; I don’t want to know about this’.”

The airline cancelled 20,000 flights this winter due to a shortage of pilots and a rostering error. O’Leary went as far as producing a power point presentation highlighting perceived financial problems at rival operators to prevent an exodus of pilots, to Norwegian in particular.

Ryanair has offered substantial pay increases to retain staff. With a large fleet of planes on order, it plans to grow passenger numbers rapidly in the coming years.

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