Ryanair To Recognize Pilot Unions


Ryanair today for the first time has agreed to recognize its pilot unions around Europe and to start directly negotiate with them.


The airline was facing number of strikes around Europe starting today in Italy and spreading to other countries running up to Christmas. The airline was forced to cancel more than 20,000 flights due to roster issues (not enough pilots) affecting close to million passengers earlier in the fall.

Here’s an excerpt from Irish Times (access the piece here):

The unions have yet to call off the strike planned in Dublin for next Wednesday or the threatened actions in Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Impact, which represents the Irish pilots intending to strike, has yet to receive the letter in which, for the first time, the airline agrees to recognise trade unions.

Refusal to deal with trade unions has been a cornerstone of Michael O’Leary’s leadership of the “no frills” airline from the outset.

The airline has carefully developed a personnel strategy that sees it mix staff and contractors at each of its 60 or so bases. It paired this with negotiation of terms and conditions separately at each base. The structure was designed specifically to sidestep the possibility of collective bargaining – never mind union-led negotiation – by pilots (and other air crew).

And here’s an excerpt from BBC (access the piece here):

“The basis of what we’ve asked to do is the same as other airlines do around the world and within Europe, so I don’t believe there’s any strings there.”

Ryanair called on the unions to cancel the planned strike on 20 December.

However, Mr Bellew said the offer to hold talks about collective bargaining was not just about next week’s planned strikes.

“This is about the long term. We have 4,500 pilots working for Ryanair at the moment, great aviation professionals, we need to get a basis with them to work going forward.

“We feel it’s the best grounds to move forward with our workforce for the next 10/20 years where we intend to grow to be the biggest airline in the world.”


Ryanair has used employment practices that in Europe are unconventional. Some pilots are “contractors” working for xyz company that then contracts for Ryanair. They are Ryanair pilots who don’t work for Ryanair and can be terminated at any time.

I am glad that the pilots soon have better bargaining power and wish the other employee groups would have the same.

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