Pol­ish pi­lots plot to join Ryanair re­bel­lion

Euro­pean work­ers want to se­cure union mem­ber­ship if jobs move away from Ire­land, trade body says

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Oliver Gill

EURO­PEAN pi­lots have sought to counter con­cerns that Ryanair is ramp­ing up the trans­fer of hun­dreds of jobs to union-lite coun­tries.

The pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Cock­pit As­so­ci­a­tion (ECA), a body that rep­re­sents more than 38,000 pi­lots from na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions across 36 coun­tries, has told The Sun­day

Tele­graph that Pol­ish pi­lots want to be “part of the move­ment” against Ryanair.

The low-cost car­rier has al­ready sig­nalled its in­ten­tion to trans­fer a fifth of its Ir­ish fleet to Poland this win­ter – a coun­try with lim­ited pi­lot union rep­re­sen­ta­tion – as part of a dis­pute over pay and work­ing con­di­tions that has now spilt over across mul­ti­ple Euro­pean ju­ris­dic­tions.

If Pol­ish pi­lots are un­able to join Poland’s main union, a sep­a­rate plat­form will be set up in­stead, ECA chief Dirk Pol­loczek said.

Ryanair was hit by its worst ever strikes on Fri­day as Ir­ish pi­lots were joined by coun­ter­parts from Ger­many, Bel­gium, Swe­den and the Nether­lands in con­certed ac­tion. One in six flights were can­celled, dis­rupt­ing the travel plans of 55,000 cus­tomers.

Last month, Ryanair told more than 300 pi­lots and cabin crew their jobs were at risk, with plans to re­lo­cate air­craft to Pol­ish car­rier Ryanair Sun this win­ter. Michael O’leary, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, later warned that more of the fleet could be moved to Poland amid “dam­ag­ing” ac­tion by Ir­ish staff.

The ECA is con­cerned Ryanair may ex­pand the plans by re­lo­cat­ing more of its fleet to bases such as Poland, Ro­ma­nia, Bul­garia, Latvia, Lithua­nia and Es­to­nia that have “lim­ited union cov­er­age”. The Pol­ish Air­lines Pi­lot As­so­ci­a­tion, the main union in the coun­try, is un­der­stood to only rep­re­sent na­tional car­rier LOT.

Mr Pol­loczek said: “Ryanair pi­lots in the eastern Euro­pean coun­tries – par­tic­u­larly in Poland – feel that they need to be part of the move­ment [against Ryanair] … there is no strong pi­lot union in Poland, but that does not mean the Ryanair pi­lots in Poland do not want to be a part of it.”

Af­ter a 24-day hia­tus, Ryanair and Ir­ish union Forsa will re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble to­mor­row. Mean­while, the Ger­man walk­out had the sin­gle largest im­pact on Ryanair can­cel­la­tions with 250 flights in and out of the coun­try grounded on Fri­day. James Phillips, a direc­tor of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs for Vere­ini­gung Cock­pit (VC), the Ger­man pi­lots’ union, warned there was no end in sight in its dis­pute with Ryanair.

“It wouldn’t sur­prise me if it does stay en­trenched for a while,” he said. “I was in some of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and got the im­pres­sion that Ryanair wants to hold their model very firmly. They are will­ing to change some things but the ques­tion that kept com­ing up was: ‘name 10 things we have to change’. The prob­lem is it is not 10 big things that have to change, it’s 100 lit­tle things.”

An­drew Lobben­berg, of HSBC, con­cluded that the air­line would ul­ti­mately cave in to pi­lots’ “key de­mands”.

A Ryanair spokesman de­clined to com­ment on fur­ther job trans­fers. “We would like the VC to come back to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble,” he said.

Dirk Pol­loczek, head of the Euro­pean Cock­pit As­so­ci­a­tion, said Pol­ish pi­lots are keen to join some form of union

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