Ryanair Holdings Plc’s flight attendants said they could follow pilots in staging walkouts over coming weeks if the Irish discount airline resists their campaign for less onerous contract terms.
A list of demands agreed by crews at a meeting in Dublin on Wednesday includes access to unpaid leave, a “fair living wage,” moves toward abolishing agency hiring, the recognition of national law in employment contracts, fair universal pensions, and an end to charges for food, water and uniforms.
Any decision to strike would have to be made by individual unions at a national level, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which coordinated the meeting of workers stationed at most of Ryanair’s 86 bases across Europe. The region’s biggest low-cost carrier already faces a pilot walkout in Ireland next week as it grapples with the terms of labor agreements following a decision to accept unionization in the face of a staffing crunch.
Ryanair employees complained about a range of issues at the two-day Dublin summit, including a requirement to open an Irish bank account in order to be paid, a pushy onboard retail policy toward snacks and scratchcards that turns crews into “sales staff,” and a sick-leave policy that requires people to turn up at the airport to explain their symptoms. Ground staff are also seeking permanent deals, shorter hours and conditions in line with sector norms.
ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez said workers will take the charter back to their own unions and plan further action accordingly. Ryanair didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the crew demands. Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch and Italian attendants are already discussing strikes as long as three days, with a final decision expected Thursday, the Portuguese union SNPVAC has said.
The emerging threat of walkouts by flight attendants comes a day after the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association said cockpit crew in Ryanair’s home market plan to strike for 24 hours on July 12 following a 94 to 1 vote in favor of industrial action. The union warned of additional walkouts “in due course,” while adding that it’s open to talks. Dublin is the carrier’s biggest base after London Stansted, with Ireland accounting for about 7 percent of flights.
Ryanair said in a notice to customers on its website that it was “disappointed” with the Irish strike call, which concerns holiday leave and the carrier’s approach to transferring pilots between European bases. It said it had already submitted draft proposals addressing IALPA’s concerns, and attempted to meet the union on 19 separate occasions.
Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit pilot union is also balloting members who fly with Ryanair in a dispute over pay and working conditions, with the outcome due later this month.
Ryanair has previously suffered only one strike in its 32-year history, with German pilots walking out for a few hours in Germany in December without major disruption.
The switch to unionization marked a major departure for Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary, who once said “hell would freeze over” before that happened. O’Leary warned in February that he was prepared to endure walkouts rather than bend to union demands that would threaten the low-cost giant’s business model and told investors to expect “localized disruptions” and “adverse PR.”
ITF campaign head Charlotte Hall told Bloomberg that unions “are not going to walk away” from the spat and that Ryanair also needs to embrace better employment terms to boost recruitment in an industry that’s suffering shortages of pilots and other personnel.
“Maybe they can get through strikes this summer, but the problem is bigger than that,” she said, adding that ongoing legal challenges to working conditions at the carrier might also “look pretty large to them and might actually make them listen a little more closely.”
Ryanair agreed to accept organized labor after a pilot scheduling mess-up forced it to cancel flights for some 700,000 passengers last fall, leaving it vulnerable to the unionization push.
The airline’s summer timetable is already under pressure, with 1,100 flights scrapped in June amid air traffic control strikes and staff shortages that have affected the wider European industry.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.