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Ryanair Holdings Plc is facing pilot strikes in its Irish home market for the first time, in what may become its most significant confrontation with organized labor to date.
Pilots in Ireland, where Europe’s biggest low-cost airline is based, voted 94 to 1 in favor of industrial action including strikes, a spokesman for the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association said on Tuesday, confirming a Bloomberg News report. It comes just amid the airline’s busy summer season.
The ballot is the latest in a series of labor battles flaring up across Europe with the airline, which agreed in December to recognize unions for the first time in its 32-year history. Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit is currently balloting its pilot members in a dispute over pay and working conditions with the outcome due at the end of July. Cabin crew from across Europe and North Africa are due to meet in Dublin on Tuesday to put together a set of demands from Ryanair. Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian and Italian cabin crew unions are discussing possible strikes, with a final decision expected this week.
Ryanair didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In February Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary warned he’s prepared to endure pilot walkouts rather than bend to union demands that would threaten the low-cost giant’s business model. He told investors to expect “localized disruptions” and “adverse PR.” The carrier agreed to recognize unions after a scheduling mess-up forced it to cancel flights for some 700,000 passengers last fall, leaving it vulnerable to the unionization push that ultimately succeeded.
First Irish Strikes
Tuesday’s Irish vote, in a dispute about issues including Ryanair’s approach to transferring pilots between its European bases, marks the first time pilots in the airline’s home market have voted to strike since it agreed to recognize the union last year — a major departure for the company given O’Leary once said “hell would freeze over” before that happened. Ryanair managed to avert an Irish pilot strike in December by agreeing to union recognition.
The airline’s already had to cancel flights because of broader air traffic control strikes and staff shortages that have affected the industry. Ryanair said Tuesday that over 1,100 flights were cancelled in June.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.