Ryanair to accept local contracts as early as 2019 – Only 3 or 4 cancellations in Belgium on Friday

Michael O’Leary at Diegem, 26 September 2018 © André Orban

At a press conference attended by Aviation24.be in a Diegem hotel Wednesday at noon, Ryanair freshly re-elected CEO Michael O’Leary said “We have recognised the unions, agreed to enter into local contracts and to respect the local laws in 2019, for both pilots and cabin crew. We agree to negotiate and there is still a strike. Cancel this strike that is not supported by the vast majority of Ryanair workers.”

This is two days before the industrial action that will affect several countries – including Belgium – where the company is active. “The pilots and the Belgian cabin crew do not support the strike, and there should be only three to four cancelled flights in Belgium,” he added (*).

This strike is useless. We have agreed to negotiate with the unions everywhere. These repetitive strikes harm the company, the bookings, its business, its image and its customers. The unions must cancel this unsupported strike of Friday. Our customers must be able to book their tickets normally without fear of future strikes,” he said.

He struck heavily at the unions which decided to go on strike despite the fact that they accepted mediation. However, he vowed that Ryanair would remain in Belgium “a country that I like: Charleroi was our first base on the continent.“), even if the strike went through. He only threatened to reduce the number of jobs.

Ryanair announced the cancellation Tuesday of 190 flights due to the strike of the cabin crew and pilots of several European countries including Belgium scheduled for Friday, affecting Around 30,000 passengers (out of 450,000). The number of cancelled flights had been reduced to 150, meaning that Ryanair will operate 92% of its flights on Friday.

The Ryanair team: Juliusz Komorek (Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer), Robin Kiely (Chief Marketing Officer), Michael O’Leary (CEO)  © André Orban

There is still a disagreement with the unions though. Today O’Leary said that Ryanair would implement local contracts according to local law in every country by early 2019, subject to agreement with the unions. He went even further in today’s press conference, saying that local law could be implemented as soon as at the end of 2018 if the unions agreed. However, in a letter to the Belgian unions, he wrote that the local laws would apply in Belgium on 1 March 2020 only, giving the time to make a smooth transition between Irish legislation and Belgian legislation.

Michael O’Leary also discussed the case of the Belgian steward (Sarkis Simonjan) who was recently fired, allegedly for speaking on, Belgian television. This steward was on probation with a 6-month contract, a period during which he was absent several times. He was not fired for his interview. After that interview, he still had many no-shows, and that was the real reason for his dismissal.

In the morning before the press conference, the Ryanair team met with the European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, essentially on staff issues. Commissioner Thyssen reminded Ryanair that it has to apply the labour laws of the countries where the staff are based, not the country of registration of the aircraft.

Ryanair responds to Commissioner Thyssen

“Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary thanked Commissioner Thyssen for her time and hospitality this morning. We appreciated the opportunity to explain to Commissioner Thyssen that the issue of applicable law is irrelevant in Ryanair’s case since Ryanair has already written to the unions in Belgium (and all other EU countries) offering to agree the implementation of local (Belgium) law, social taxes and court jurisdiction by agreement with the national unions.”

We also asked Commissioner Thyssen to call on the CNE union to call off Friday’s unnecessary strike when they have already received written undertakings from Ryanair that we will agree to Belgian contracts, Belgian law and Belgian regulations for our people in Belgium, and all other EU countries.”

Michael O’Leary said it was an excellent meeting. However, he introduced a complaint at the Commission against staff from other airlines interfering with Ryanair contract negotiations with the unions (see release hereunder).

Michael O’Leary interviewed by Belgian television, 26 September 2018 © André Orban

(*) In fact, six Belgian flights have been cancelled: Brussels-Lisbon, Brussel-Porto, Charleroi-Girona and the three return flights.


Hereunder the Ryanair statement after the meeting with the European Commission and the press conference:




Ryanair has today (Wed 26 Sept) published its offer to pilots and cabin crew in order to set the record straight, correct competitor trade union propaganda and pave the way to a speedy conclusion of collective labour agreements (CLA’s) with its people and their unions.

Ryanair has also submitted a competition complaint to the European Commission, calling for an investigation of the anti-competitive behaviour of certain competitor airline crew, unions and lobby groups, who are actively impeding Ryanair’s negotiations with its pilots/cabin crew and who are organising repeated strikes in an effort to damage Ryanair’s business and customer confidence, for the benefit of Ryanair’s competitors.

Ryanair has made significant progress over the past 9 months in negotiations with trade unions across Europe, which include:

  • Irish recognition agreement with FORSA union, covering pilots, and cabin crew.
  • Irish mediation agreement covering pilot seniority, promotions, and base transfers.
  • Recognition and CLA agreements for all Ryanair pilots based in Italy.
  • Recognition and CLA agreements for all cabin crew based in Italy.
  • Recognition agreement with BALPA covering all UK based pilots.
  • Recognition agreement with Unite covering all UK based cabin crew.
  • Recognition agreement with Verdi to cover German cabin crew.

Despite all this progress in a short 9-month period, Ryanair continues to face significant impediments in certain countries where competitor airline pilots and cabin crew are interfering in negotiations, or blocking progress, up to and including organising unnecessary strikes, most notably;

  • In Spain, Norwegian cabin crew in Alicante are organising these cabin crew strikes.
  • In Portugal, TAP cabin crew are organising these strikes.
  • In the Netherlands, the pilots union insist that a KLM pilot negotiates with Ryanair.
  • In Sweden, pilot unions refused to meet unless a Braathens pilot is invited.

Ryanair has complained that some 8% of its (450,000) customers are facing strikes and flight disruptions on Fri 28th Sept over demands made 2 weeks ago by these competitor airline pilots and cabin crew, which Ryanair has already agreed to, including:

  • Local contracts in Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Germany in early 2019.
  • Local law and local tax as part of a CLA in early 2019.
  • National seniority lists, similar to that agreed in Ireland.
  • Base transfer agreements based on seniority (as already agreed in Ireland).

Ryanair’s business is being damaged by unnecessary strikes and disruptive interference in our bona fide union negotiations, promoted and coordinated by competitor airline employees, their unions and lobby groups. This is an unlawful attempt to distort competition and customer choice, for the benefit of legacy airlines. Ryanair calls on DG COMP to immediately investigate the nature of this collective campaign, including numerous behind-closed-doors meetings held under the banners of the ECA (competitor pilots) and the ITF (competitor cabin crew). The object and effect of this unlawful behaviour have been to impede the progress of Ryanair’s industrial relations engagement regardless of the status of individual union negotiations, as evidenced by the unnecessary pan European strike on Fri 28 Sept, which was agreed in a meeting of several cabin crew unions in Rome on 7 Sept last.

Ryanair has offered to meet with our people and their unions in every EU country with the only pre-condition being no competitor employee involvement. Lufthansa does not allow Ryanair people to join in its union negotiations in Germany. Similarly, in Spain and Portugal, when Iberia and TAP meet their unions, they do not negotiate with Ryanair pilots or cabin crew. While Ryanair is new to the process of negotiating with unions, it is simply unlawful and anti-competitive that certain unions are insisting that competitor airline pilots and cabin crew participate in meetings with Ryanair, where our business, pay and terms and conditions are discussed.

Speaking in Brussels today, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said:

We have made real progress with the unions and our people in many EU countries since we agreed to recognise unions in Dec 2017. However, in certain countries, most notably in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden similar progress is being impeded by the interference of competitor airline pilots and cabin crew who are conspiring to call repeated and unnecessary strikes, which are disrupting Ryanair’s customers, and damaging our business for the benefit of their legacy airline employers.

We are not aware of any other multi-national company in Europe where its union negotiations are interfered with by competitor employees. Volkswagen’s union negotiations do not take place with Peugeot car workers. Tesco is not required to meet with ASDA employees. Yet in Ryanair currently, we are being asked to negotiate with pilots and/or cabin crew of Aer Lingus, Norwegian, TAP, Eurowings, KLM and Braathens. This is anti-competitive behaviour which damages consumers.

The majority of Ryanair’s pilots and cabin crew do not support these strikes, and they have continued to work normally. We work hard to ensure that our people enjoy the best pay, terms and conditions of any low-cost 737 airline in Europe. Our pilots and cabin crew wish to come to work free from intimidation from these competitor unions. They are being denied this opportunity by unnecessary strikes, which are being organised unlawfully on a Europe wide basis in meetings of competitor airline pilots and cabin crew. This is damaging Ryanair’s business for the benefit of legacy airlines. We have today published our offer to pilots and cabin crew, and call on the European Commission – if it’s going to defend the growth of low fare air travel and consumer choice – to take action now to prevent these competitor airline employees from interfering with our business and damaging the best interests of our customers to the benefit of high fare legacy airlines”.




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