Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Ryanair's Dublin Pilots Throw Weight Behind Strike Effort

Updated on
  • 95% of pilots voting at carrier’s home base back labor action
  • Shares drop; airline says only 28% of pilots voted for strike

Ryanair Holdings Plc pilots in the airline’s home base of Dublin defied a management threat and voted in favor of labor action, throwing their weight behind a European organizing campaign seeking better working conditions.

Of the cockpit staff who voted, 95 percent said they’d rather strike than accept management proposals to improve employment terms, people familiar with the matter said Monday. The people didn’t say how many participated. Most Dublin pilots who fly for Ryanair come from agencies and aren’t allowed to vote as full time employees are.

Ryanair said less than 28 percent of its 300 Dublin pilots voted in favor of labor action.

“Ryanair has received no notification of any industrial action by its Dublin pilots so we suspect this is more PR activity” by IALPA, the company said, referring to the union that is leading the drive in Ireland and already represents IAG SA-owned Aer Lingus.

Ryanair last week told Dublin flight-deck crews it may scrap promotions, halt transfer requests, cut back recently-granted spending allowances, and move aircraft to other Irish airports if staff go on strike. The shares fell 3.9 percent on Monday after Bloomberg reported the results of the Dublin vote, the biggest daily decline since October 2016.

Pilot support in Dublin, the discount carrier’s second-biggest base after London Stanstead, advances an organizing drive that has already led Italian pilots to declare they plan to call a strike on Dec. 15 for four hours. Employees have also formed local labor councils in Spain, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany, where pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit is planning a press conference about talks at Ryanair.

The organizing push comes as Ryanair battles deteriorating relations with its staff. A crew shortage in September partly stemmed from rivals including Norwegian Air poaching its pilots. That forced Ryanair to cancel flights for 700,000 customers. The company has since offered concessions but has said it will reverse course if pilots in Dublin strike.

Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary has repeatedly fought attempts for Ryanair to become unionized, most recently in 2012. The company is bringing back Peter Bellew as chief operations officer, who left for Malaysia Airlines Bhd two years ago, to patch up labor relations. Three Irish bases accepted pay increases of as much as 22,000 euros ($25,923), the airline has said.

Ryanair closed at 16.93 euros in Dublin, after dropping as much as 4.1 percent earlier. The company has a market value of 20 billion euros ($23.6 billion).

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