Ryanair pilots: Unionization more chaotic and unpredictable than ever

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Tomorrow, investors will meet at Ryanair’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) – under a general media ‘lock-out’ imposed by the airline’s management team. One year after Ryanair’s pilot rostering and flight cancellation crisis, and 9 months after its announcement that it would open up to unions, the situation is more chaotic and unpredictable than ever. Apart from two agreements on targeted terms and conditions reached in Italy and Ireland, negotiations with pilot unions across Europe are either blocked or progressing at snail’s pace. As a result, industrial unrest is more present – and more likely in future – than it ever was.

The obvious question to investors is: Can the current management team deliver the change that is needed to ensure a smooth transition towards a unionized airline?

“Developments over the past months have clearly shown that the relationship between Ryanair management and its employees has become dysfunctional, and this is now putting at risk the continued success of the airline,” says ECA President Dirk Polloczek. “Regardless of repeated assurances about improving employee relations, the approach taken by the company’s leadership over more than 20 years seems largely unchanged. Management simply appears unable to talk to its own employees in a constructive manner and without falling back into its old and unhelpful habits. It is not surprising that Ryanair pilots and their national unions are increasingly frustrated and see industrial action as the only way to bring about changes that management seems unwilling to accept at the negotiating table.”

“As professional pilots – critical and committed to the future of our airline – we have lost all confidence in the current management and leadership. To our knowledge, the Board has not explicitly disapproved or discouraged the current management’s approach to employee relations,” says an anonymous long-standing Ryanair pilot member of the Ryanair Transnational Pilot Group (RTPG). “Having a shared interest in the health and success of our airline, we – the pilots of Ryanair – urge shareholders to enable the necessary changes, both within the management team and the Board, to allow for a fresh start and constructive social dialogue.”

“Ryanair pilots from across Europe clearly set out what it takes to address their concerns and to prevent them from leaving for better jobs at competitor airlines,” says Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA Secretary General. “One of the most powerful signals of good will from management would be to offer immediately to every ‘contractor’ pilot to move – by 1 January 2019 – to a direct employment contract rather than the current precarious Irish broker agency contracts. All contracts should also be governed by the local law of the country where the pilot is based.”