‘If you want low air fares you’ll need to put up with strikes,’ says Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary as thousands face travel chaos amid another pilot walk-out in Germany
- The budget carrier has cancelled 150 out of 400 flights to and from Germany
- Unions say strike is due to deadlocked talks with airline over pay and conditions
- Ryanair has slammed the 24-hour walkout as ‘unacceptable and unnecessary’
If customers want cheap fares, they’ll have to accept strikes, the boss of Ryanair has claimed.
Chief executive Michael O’Leary insisted industrial disputes with the airline’s staff have caused ‘minimal disruption’ as he pledged not to ‘roll over’. And he added that his airline would rather accept strikes than be forced into meeting demands and raising costs.
He made the comments after Ryanair cancelled 150 out of 400 flights scheduled to fly to and from Germany on Wednesday due to a 24-hour strike by pilots and cabin crew.
Ryanair staff members take part in a demonstration at Frankfurt Airport today during a 24 hour strike
The striking staff waved placards and also held up a banner saying ‘Ryanair stop squeezing our crew’
Striking Ryanair staff tape pictures of the airline’s CEO Michael O’Leary to their faces during the strike. He said that he rather accept strikes than raise fares
German unions claim the Dublin-based airline is not offering satisfactory deals on pay and working conditions, but this is denied by Ryanair.
The carrier’s pilots in several countries staged a strike last month, and there have been a series of walkouts by flight attendants.
Speaking at a press conference in the City of London, Mr O’Leary said: ‘We will not roll over every time we’re threatened with a strike and concede some higher cost basis.
‘If you threaten us with a strike and we think your reason for that is unreasonable, then we will take strikes and we will manage our way around those strikes, as we’ve done successfully in Ireland when we had five days of strikes by just 25 per cent of pilots.
A Ryanair aircraft is sat parked on the tarmac at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport after pilots and cabin crew in Germany went on strike
‘It resulted in 20 flight cancellations a day for five days, out of a total of 300 flights that we operate daily to and from Ireland.
‘We don’t want strikes but we are willing to accept strikes, put up with them, if it means defending our cost basis and our ability to offer low fare air travel to our customers.’
The Irish budget carrier has said it may have to close some bases and slash jobs in Germany if the stoppages there drag on.
Germany’s Cockpit pilots’ federation and the Verdi service workers’ union called the 24-hour strike after they said talks with Ryanair management over pay and conditions were deadlocked.
Verdi spokesman Andreas Splanemann, who was part of a demo at Berlin’s Schoenefield airport, said: ‘We hope that this strike shows a significant effect, that the company realises the employees won’t accept rotten working conditions and bad pay any longer.’
But with affected passengers largely warned off in advance, there were few stranded travellers to see the workers with their placards reading ‘no rights, no flights’.
The strike comes as Ryanair is already bracing for a mass coordinated walkout by cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Union leaders are expected to announce details of the stoppage in Brussels on Thursday.
They have vowed to stage ‘the biggest strike action the company has ever seen’.
Ryanair has been clashing with worker representatives ever since it took the unprecedented step last year to start recognising trade unions in a bid to avert widespread Christmas strikes.
Striking Ryanair workers in Berlin hold up placards reading ‘no rights, no flights’
Last month, Ryanair pilots in five European countries including Germany held their first-ever simultaneous walkout, causing some 400 flight cancellations and travel chaos for 55,000 passengers.
The airline has however struck some labour agreements since then, reaching its first-ever union deal with Italian pilots in late August.
In Ireland, pilots voted to accept an agreement on improved working conditions last week.
The breakthrough prompted Ryanair to back down from an earlier threat that it would move several aircraft and 300 jobs from Ireland to Poland.
Germany’s Cockpit and Verdi unions, which represent some 400 Germany-based Ryanair pilots and 1,000 flight personnel, condemned the airline’s attempt to squeeze them with a similar threat.
Cockpit’s vice president Markus Wahl told AFP: ‘This is how Ryanair deals with its employees: putting pressure on them, scaring them and threatening job losses.’
However, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs told a Frankfurt press conference: ‘We are not making a threat.
‘If you have ongoing strikes, that’s the economic impact.’
After 150 out of 400 Ryanair flights to and from Germany were cancelled, check-in desks at Frankfurt airport were empty
Germany’s Cockpit pilots’ federation and the Verdi service workers’ union called a 24-hour strike after they said talks with Ryanair management over pay and conditions were deadlocked
The no-frills airline boasts lower costs per passenger than its competitors and is eyeing profits of around 1.25 billion euros ($1.45 billion) this year.
But staff have long complained that they earn less than counterparts at rival airlines.
Another key gripe of workers based in countries other than Ireland is the fact that Ryanair employs them under Irish legislation.
They say this creates huge insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.
Unions also want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as staff employees.
Ryanair counters that it has already offered significant pay increases and steadier contracts.
It said German pilots can make ‘up to 190,000 euros a year’.
But Cockpit’s Mr Wahl said that only applies to ‘a handful’ of people, with starting salaries around 39,000 euros (£35,000) and the most experienced fliers taking home around 110,000 euros (£98,000) a year in fixed pay, which can be topped up depending on flight hours.
Ryanair passengers gather at Berlin’s Schoenefield Airport. The strike comes as Ryanair is already bracing for a mass coordinated walkout by cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain
Mr Wahl said pilots were fighting for more pay overall, and specifically a higher fixed-rate salary.
The Verdi union said Ryanair cabin crew earn a basic gross salary of 800 to 1,200 euros (£712 to £1,000) a month on average, far below what rival easyJet pays.
‘The wages are so low that they are insufficient to ensure a decent living standard,’ Verdi board member Christine Behle said.
Source: Read Full Article