Ryanair chairman David Bonderman and chief executive Michael O’Leary survived calls for their removal by shareholders at the airline’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

However, a significant minority of shareholders voted against Bonderman’s re-election as Ryanair chairman after some investors echoed union calls for him to step down.

Bonderman, who has been chairman since 1996, was re-elected with 70.5% of votes. Corporate nominations usually draw near unanimous support from institutional investors.

Royal London Asset Management, the UK’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum and two California pension funds opposed Bonderman’s re-election.

O’Leary secured re-election to the board with 98.5% of the vote and told the meeting: “The overwhelming majority of our shareholders are supportive [of Bonderman].”

But news agency Reuters reported shareholders “expressed their frustration after the company’s worst-ever industrial action”.

O’Leary declined to respond when asked whether industrial action by Ryanair pilots and cabin crew could escalate.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the UK pilots’ union BALPA, said: “It is difficult to envisage how Ryanair can move forward.”

Referring to O’Leary’s endorsement by shareholders, Strutton said: “While he is still there, the distrust among staff is likely to continue and with it the industrial unrest.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) noted Ryanair cabin crew in five countries plan to strike on September 28.

In a statement released by the European Cockpit Association, an unnamed spokesman for the Ryanair Transnational Pilot Group said: “We have lost all confidence in the current management and leadership.”

Eduardo Chagas, general secretary of the European Transport Workers Federation, warned that Bonderman’s return “does not augur well for the company’s industrial relations”.

Speaking after the meeting, O’Leary said he had been asked to extend his contract, but he did not want to commit to a new five-year deal. O’Leary said would rather move to a rolling 12-month deal.

ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said: “Ryanair dodged the opportunity to overturn its corporate governance model. It is hard to see how the company can move on to a stable footing.”

The unions noted Ryanair has refused to recognise a new cabin crew union in Poland, the CWR Cabin Crew Union, which claims to recognise all Ryanair cabin crew in the country.

The union won legal recognition last week and led a collective withdrawal from Ryanair’s employee representation system pending negotiations with the airline.

Ryanair responded by threatening to sack all cabin crew who refuse to sign self-employment contracts by September 30. Under Polish law, self-employed workers are excluded from joining unions.

Bonderman, a founder of private equity firm TPG Capital, resigned from the board of Uber last year after remarking that appointing women to company boards meant “more talking”.