Europe’s largest budget airline Ryanair has for just the first time recognized pilot unions in Europe, reversing a policy that has been longstanding in an attempt to avert strikes the pilots had planned for Christmas.
This move comes as the airline, known for its ultralow fares and its aggressive slashing of costs, is caught up in controversy over treatment of its workers.
An issue with scheduling this year has forced Ryanair to cancel over 20,000 flights, which cast a big spotlight on a number of strange labor agreement it holds with pilots, many of whom have been classified as an “independent contractor” and not a fulltime employee.
The airline, on Friday, signaled a big shift in the policy. With some of its pilots in different parts of Europe proposing a strike during the busiest travel period of the holiday season, Ryanair invited the unions in Germany, Britain, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal to hold talks.
The airline previously has insisted that its employee negotiated through channels within the company, but pilots resisted agreeing to do that for months.
The chaos in pilot scheduling during the fall prompted pilots to outcry over their pay, which brought together the pilots as one to establish their own groups in Europe to negotiate with the airline, demanding more secure contracts as well as collective bargaining.
In a prepared statement, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that flights during Christmas are extremely important to the airline’s customers, and we want all concern or worry that they might by stranded by industrial action by the pilots next week removed.
On Friday, Ryanair called for unions to cancel all potential industrial action in order for the airline’s customers to look forward to returning home for the holidays without a worry or threat of strikes by pilots hanging over their heads.
Recently, the airline vowed it would not meet with or recognize unions, claiming that its rivals were looking to capitalize on the problems the airline had with its scheduling fiasco to demean as well as disparage the airline’s collective success.
On Friday, the airline maintained however it would only acknowledge the representatives from Ryanair and it would not be engaging with the pilots who fly for its competition in Ireland or anywhere else.