Ryanair is facing the prospect of industrial action by pilots in Britain as well as the possibility of legal action.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), which represents over 10,000 pilots in the UK, has launched a survey among Ryanair pilots in response to what it says is growing dissatisfaction with the company.
“Among other questions there is one asking whether pilots would be prepared to support industrial action to achieve their objectives and one asking if those on agency contracts would support a group legal action to establish employee or worker rights,” said BALPA.
The association’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said the desire among pilots to change Ryanair for the better is real.
“They tell us they are fed up with the way they are treated and that’s why they are saying no to big pay rises that have been offered by Ryanair management,” said Mr Strutton.
“At their request, BALPA has now issued a survey to all Ryanair pilots to gauge whether they would be prepared to take industrial action to support their aims and objectives.
“Ryanair is unique in the complexity of its employment structures. Many pilots who fly for Ryanair are not in fact employed by them but are agency workers, supplied through several different third-, or even fourth-party companies.
“In our survey, we are also asking whether the pilots would like us to test the legality of these structures through the courts. We will be guided by the Ryanair pilots in all of this work.”
In recent days, the company’s Stansted pilots voted to reject the pay deal offered by Ryanair management in a 60% to 40% majority.
A pay and pension boost of up to £24,000 (€27,000) each had been on offer from management — but only if they continued to negotiate with the airline directly.
It is believed a number of other bases have also rejected the improved terms and conditions.
Earlier this week, the newly formed European Employee Representative Committee, which is not recognised by Ryanair management, also threatened industrial action and made a pay demand for some pilots which is close to twice what the airline has offered.
Ryanair said the "BA pilots union" has no involvement or recognition in Ryanair and its claiims have no validity.
"If Ryanair pilots wish to discuss or improve their pay or conditions, they can do so at any time using the established collective bargaining (base ERC) process, which has already delivered them industry leading pay (20% higher than competitor airline pilots), 5 on/4off rosters and unmatched job security," a spokesman said. "BALPA’s claims about Ryanair’s “complex employment structures” are false.
"A majority of Ryanair pilots in 2017 are direct employees, a minority are contractors, just like the contractor pilots which predominate among Norwegian, Wizz, Easyjet and other low cost airlines in Europe, and the many contractors employed by hospitals, hotels, airports and media companies."
Meanwhile, the European Cockpit Association has set up a benevolent fund to provide a “safety net for pilot leaders”.
It says the fund is for the entire pilot community, but adds: “It is now clear that there is a new generation of pilots who will not be silenced, denied their fundamental right to freedom of association, or discouraged from organising collective negotiations.”
Its secretary general, Philip von Schöppenthau, said: “The need for this fund is a big warning sign that things are going seriously wrong in European aviation — because not every airline respects the principles of social dialogue.”
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