Trade unions refuse to rule out further pilot strikes at Ryanair

Ryanair pilots hit the picket line for first time in airline's history this morning

Trade unions refuse to rule out further pilot strikes at Ryanair

Photo. Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Trade unions are warning that further pilot strikes could be on the cards at Ryanair.

Around 100 pilots are on a 24 hour strike, in a row over seniority arrangements at the airline.

It is the first time pilots at the airline have hit the picket lines.

The industrial action has seen the airline cancel 30 of its 290 scheduled Irish flights.

However, the company has announced that 26 of its “first-wave” aircraft departed on schedule form Dublin this morning.

It said it respects but regrets the “decision of 25% of our Irish pilots to go on strike” and called on the striking pilots to ”take up our offer of working groups so we can resolve these issues.”

Both sides failed to agree the terms of reference for any working group during last-gasp talks yesterday.

Niall Shanahan from parent union Fórsa said it may take another strike to get management to take them seriously.

“Our IALPA (Irish Airline Pilots Association) branch will be considering the options and talking about progress yesterday and what this strike action means today,” he said.

“We can’t confirm one way or another what may happen at this stage.

“But we do have to reflecton the actual experience as it has happened.

“It has taken strike action to get management around the table, it may take that again.”

The airline said it has already alerted some 5,000 affected customers – with alternative arrangements available.

It said passengers that haven't been informed of cancellations can assume their flight will go ahead as planned.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fórsa national secretary Angela Kirk said pilots do not want to be on strike.

"They know that it is bad for the passengers, it is bad for the airline, it is bad for the economy and indeed it is bad for themselves," she said.

"But we have been left with no choice.

"The pilots have been forced into this action because the company is  either unwilling or incapable of negotiating an agreement on base transfers that is extremely important to our pilots and as a I say it is regrettable that it has come to this."

Ms Kirk said the talks were only scheduled at the 11th hour - with both sides accepting the strike was likely to go ahead anyway.

"My own view is that this issue will only be resolved through negotiation but the reality is we only get the company to the table to engage when strike notice is served."

Both sides in the dispute insist they remain available for talks and Ms Kirk said unions will consider their position again after today's strike.

She said pilots are not ruling out the possibility of further disruption at this stage.

Bernard Harbour from trade union Fórsa said yesterday’s negotiations were promising, but there was not enough time to reach agreement.

“We did try to explore the potential for a working group to deal with the real issues,” he said.

“I think everybody kind of accepted that, at this late stage in the game, it was unlikely that we were going to crack this with a strike breathing down our necks.”

The strike officially began at 1am this morning.

Mr Harbour said both sides were considering the establishment of a working group to examine the issues that led to the action.

“I think both sides were of the view that that had potential but we were not able to agree on terms of reference.

“The company made proposals for the terms of reference; we made counter-proposals but we were not able to reach agreement so that is where it was left.”