Ryanair is pressuring pilots to reject trade union membership and accept its pay offer as the carrier fights to overcome the damage caused by cancelling the flights of more than 700,000 passengers.
Budget giant Ryanair cancelled more than 20,000 flights through September, October and the coming winter as it ran out of pilots to operate the services, blaming a “rostering management failure”.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary had threatened to cancel pilots’ leave, but also offered a pay rise and bonus as rival Norwegian Air reported recruiting more than 100 Ryanair pilots.
O’Leary then wrote to pilots promising Ryanair would pay more than its rivals and improve job security.
But in the budget airline’s latest memo to pilots, Ryanair chief people (personnel) officer Eddie Wilson warned crew they risk losing out on the pay rises next month if they are “misled by the false promises” of forming a trade union.
A majority of Ryanair pilots are self-employed and pilots’ unions across Europe have reported many joining since the cancellation crisis began as they seek improved contracts and employment terms.
Ryanair refuses to negotiate with or recognise trade unions, only agreeing to negotiate with employee representative councils at individual bases.
It appears to be offering the pay increases base by base.
Wilson insisted Ryanair will not meet any union group, telling pilots: “We will not enter into writing, or meetings, with competitor airline pilots/unions, or whatever they call themselves.”
He suggested the unions’ “sole aim is to prevent you from accessing a big pay increase next month”.
The Wilson memo states: “The only way to ensure your base shares in this [pay] upside from November is to support your employee representative council reaching agreement over the next three weeks.
“If this doesn’t happen, these pay increases may be delayed until December or next year or not delivered at all.”
British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) general secretary Brian Strutton said Ryanair pilots believe O’Leary “still doesn’t get” their grievances.
Ryanair has offered pay rises of up to €22,000 a year for captains and up to €11,000 for first officers depending on where they are based.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority has threatened legal action against Ryanair after accusing the carrier of deliberately misleading stranded passengers about their rights to compensation and rebooking on other airlines.
The crisis comes more than three years into Ryanair’s ‘always getting campaign’ to transform its reputation for poor customer service.
Ryanair continues to insist it is not short of pilots. A spokesman said: “We have over 4,200 [pilots] and more than 860 have joined the airline in the year to date.”
Long-time Ryanair chief operating officer Michael Hickey is to leave the airline at the end of this month as a result of the crisis.
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