Ryanair pilots call for talks on improved contracts

The airline's CEO has warned "hell will freeze over" before the company becomes unionised

Ryanair pilots call for talks on improved contracts

Advertising posters in the background at the Ryanair AGM in Dublin, 21-09-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

Ryanair's CEO has said "hell will freeze over" before the company becomes unionised.

Michael O’Leary’s comments this after noon came after reports that several of the airline's bases have written emails threatening industrial action in the wake of the rostering "mess-up" which disrupted a total of 315,000 passengers.

Speaking at the Ryanair AGM this afternoon, Mr O’Leary said the airline will hand pilots at its largest bases – Dublin, Stansted, Frankfurt and Berlin – an extra €10,000 a year to retain them and encourage more to locate to these airports.

The offer comes after pilots at bases all over Europe wrote to the airline rejecting an offer of a €12,000 bonus to forgo their holiday entitlements.

The offer was made in an effort to plug gaps in the pilot roster due to a backlog of annual leave.

Rejection

It has been reported this evening that more bases have now written to the airline rejecting both the pay proposals and the offer of bonuses.

The pilots have claimed the details around the €12,000 offer were too vague.

The bonus was apparently contingent on pilots having logged at least 800 flight hours over the course of the previous year - however there are concerns few pilots will meet this threshold.

In the letter, the pilots urged Ryanair to engage with them in order to agree better working conditions, and said they will only be fulfilling the terms of their contract - and will work no overtime - until improved contract terms are in place.

Increased pay

Announcing the offer of an extra €10,000 for pilots at busier bases, Mr O'Leary admitted they may have been paid a "little on the low side."

He said he would not give in to any form of industrial action - if it materialised - and threatened the provision of services.

He also said he is prepared to unilaterally cancel leave for pilots who have holidays booked in four week blocks.

Anger

Pilots are said to be extremely unhappy with the suggestion – with Employee Representative Councils seeking new better contracts instead.

Employee councils liaise with Ryanair on behalf of pilots and staff, as the company refuses recognise unions.

Mr O'Leary said he is willing to listen to the pilots concerns but warned that he does not believe the unsigned emails he received are genuine:

“We will have and our will to negotiate base supplements at those bases where either we have a shortage of pilots or we want to recruit more pilots,” he said.

“But we will not be responding to frankly anonymous circular emails, which have about the same validity as Twitter feed, allegedly from unsigned 55 Ryanair bases.”

Industrial action

The airline has denied that is could be faced with industrial action in the wake of the scandal – however Mr O’Leary insisted the door is oalways open for people to air their grievances:

“I think they would naturally say, ‘hang on a second, Dublin are suddenly getting another €10,000 a year, Berlin or Frankfurt are getting another €10,000 a year, we want that,’” he said.

“Now our opening position would be, ‘where are you from; you are from Alicante? OK we have more pilots than we need in Alicante, so if you would like the base pay why don’t you go to Frankfurt or Berlin or Dublin or Stansted if you want.’”

Shareholder also heard that the airline plans to recruit 125 new pilots within “the next week or two.”

"Mess up"

It has previously dismissed reports that the loss of 140 of its pilots to a Norwegian rival this year played a role in the cancellations.

Ryanair is cancelling 103,000 flights over the next six weeks, with affected customers e-mailed with offers of alternative flights or full refunds.

It said it has taken on extra customer service staff to speed up the backlog of flight change requests and refunds.

Ryanair expects to have processed over 300,000 alternative routings or refunds for customers - over 95% of affected customers - by the end of this week.

Reporting from Nicole Gernon ...