Breaking news today that Ryanair UK pilots are announcing dates to strike in a dispute over pay. According to multiple sources, members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) voted in favor of walkouts by a majority of 80%. The first strike will last for 48 hours, taking place on the 22nd to 23rd August. The second strike will last 60 hours and run from the 2nd to the 4th of September.
Details of the vote and dispute
Frustration with Ryanair management and chief executive Michael O’Leary led the to the ballot being called. The official statement from BALPA reads as follows:
“Decades of Ryanair refusing to deal with unions has resulted in two things: Firstly, a management that apparently doesn’t understand how to work with unions, and secondly a company that doesn’t have a number of standard agreements that any union would reasonably expect in any workplace.”
The statement goes on to say: “That is why our claim includes many issues including pensions; loss of license insurance; maternity benefits; allowances; and a fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure.
“We have made no progress with Ryanair management on any of those areas at all, seemingly because Ryanair management cannot understand how to go about working with us constructively, or how to negotiate. Ryanair has made no offer to Balpa in respect of its pilots.”
Below are parts of an extended tweet from BALPA. You can read the remainder of their statements here.
BALPA members in Ryanair will be asked to take strike action as follows:
From 0001 on 22nd August until 2359 on 23rd August
From 0001 on 2nd September until 2359 on 4th September
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) August 7, 2019
We have had no formal offer from Ryanair and it is imperative that we resolve this dispute urgently to avoid strike action. No pilot wants to spoil the public’s travel plans but at the moment it seems we have no choice.
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) August 7, 2019
Response from Ryanair
We reached out to Ryanair for comment who directed us to a new press release. It begins:
“We are disappointed that the pilots union BALPA, is threatening to disrupt our customers travel plans during late August, early September, when it has the support of less than 30% of Ryanair’s UK pilots.”
The statement by the airline continues by stating that BALPA’s ballot shows that less than 50% of Ryanair’s UK pilots are members of BALPA, and of these, just 57% voted in favor of industrial action. This is less than 30% of Ryanair’s UK pilots.
The airline goes on to defend itself and its treatment of its pilots by saying that last year, Ryanair’s UK pilots agreed a 20% salary increase, with Senior Captain’s earning up to £180,000 p.a., which is more than competitor airline pilots in Norwegian or Jet2.
Finally, the statement ends:
“This [plan to strike] is ill-timed just 10 weeks before Brexit, and will cause unnecessary disruption to customers holidays and travel plans. We have written to BALPA asking them to return to talks, and we apologise sincerely to customers for any uncertainty that BALPA’s ballot may cause them. We hope BALPA will now work with Ryanair to minimise job losses instead of undertaking ill-judged and ill-timed industrial action.”
A challenging time for Ryanair
The vote for and plan to strike would mean a massive disruption to the end of the summer holidays. The situation could be made worse for Ryanair as the result of a separate ballot involving its Irish pilots is scheduled to be announced on Friday.
Furthermore, the airline has admitted a series of headwinds to its business:
- Higher fuel costs at a time of intensified economic uncertainty.
- Profits have been challenged by stiff competition, thus lowering profit margins.
- Growth plans have been put on hold as a result of the 737 MAX crisis.
These headwinds come at the same time that Ryanair is planning to cut 900 jobs due to a surplus of labor. Michael O’Leary later clarified that 500 under threat were pilots but the threat to jobs has increased tensions between the parties.