Ryanair Faces Europe-Wide Strike Threat as Pilots Push for Union

Updated on
  • Italian crews planning four-hour walkout later this month
  • Employees around Europe are organizing amid staffing squeeze
Passengers queue to board a Ryanair Holdings Plc aircraft at Dublin Airport, operated by Dublin Airport Authority, in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Ryanair provides low fare passenger airline services to destinations in Europe. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Ryanair Holdings Plc faces its first-ever strike as crews in Italy prepare to walk out as part of a push for unionization and company-wide contracts, and staff in six other countries also consider action.

Pilots and flight attendants in Italy plan to walk off the job for four hours from 1 p.m. local time on Dec. 15, according two unions. Workers in markets including Ireland, where Ryanair is based, will announce ballot results in coming days, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Pilots in Ireland, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Portugal and the Netherlands, as well as Italy, have formed local labor councils in recent weeks in order to press for collective bargaining outside Ryanair’s own employee representative committees. The move also opened up the possibility of strike action.

Ryanair has been left vulnerable after a staffing mix-up required it to squeeze six months of pilot leave into half that time. The crisis was exacerbated by the poaching of crew by other airlines, forcing the Dublin-based carrier to cancel more than 20,000 flights and propose a new pay deal in order to maintain other services. The take-up of the offer has been slow as some staff seek to exploit the opportunity to boost their leverage with the company.

The Italian Anpac union said in a letter to the Ryanair that the planned strike concerns the right to negotiate collective labor agreements, as well as issues including social security, health care and vacation planning. The FIT-CISL union said separately that the action had been deferred from Dec. 10 at the request of the Italian transport ministry.

Ryanair said that the two labor groups represent employees of Italian carrier Alitalia SpA and have “no role” at the Irish airline, having threatened walkouts five times in the past only to call them off.

“We expect this latest threatened strike will also be postponed or canceled,” spokesman Robin Kiely said.

— With assistance by Chiara Vasarri

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