Leo Varadkar warns Ryanair on pay talks

Leo Varadkar warns Ryanair on pay talks
Warned: Taoiseach is 'concerned' with the continuing Ryanair dispute

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary that thousands of stranded passengers “who pay the wages” of directors and pilots could hit back at the airline if pay talks stand-off deepens.

Responding to company statements that 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew are being advised their services “may not be required from October 28 onwards”, Mr Varadkar said threats of job losses will ultimately damage the airline as much as the staff.

After meeting Italian prime minister Guiseppe Conte to discuss Brexit and likely plans for Ireland to receive 600 migrants arriving in Italy, Mr Varadkar said threats of job cuts are a “commercial decision”.

He said threatening staff could escalate strikes and leave passengers out of pocket — risking a backlash against Ryanair.

Referring to a letter to pilots and cabin crew, the Taoiseach said: “That’s a commercial decision. It’s up to any business to say how many flights they want to run.

But I am very concerned with the escalation in the Ryanair dispute, particularly the impact it’s going to have on holidaymakers and people who spent months saving up for their holidays and who are now perhaps not being able to take their holidays.

“I would really ask Ryanair and the unions to think about the people and the customers, the ones that ultimately pay the wages of the pilots and the cabin crew, and the ones who ultimately pay the dividends of the shareholders and keep the board in office.”

While not saying that the Government will become involved, he added that if both sides do not “get around the table” soon, there was a genuine risk thousands of Irish customers could be left stranded abroad or unable to take planned holidays abroad.

Meanwhile, following talks with Italy’s new prime minister, Mr Varadkar said Guiseppe Conte had pressed home the need for Ireland to help his country further with its huge migrant crisis.

Mr Varadkar, who later visited the headquarters of the EU’s Mediterranean migrants mission Operation Sofia, said he had restated Ireland’s commitment to potentially taking in 600 more migrants.

However, he stopped short of confirming the date, saying “we will engage further on garda vetting and security clearance” issues which have delayed the move for two years.

The continuing delay is a situation likely to now used to ensure continuing Italian support for Ireland’s Brexit position.

On the issue of Brexit discussions, the Taoiseach said he was “confident” a March 2019 date will be reached, but added: “There are lots of different reasons why things might go wrong. Not in Ireland or in Europe but potentially in London, and that’s why we have to prepare for all eventualities.”

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