Why two Belgian unions representing Ryanair pilots issue a strike warning this Summer

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Photo by Fotis Christopoulos on Unsplash

Yesterday, both Belgian unions ACV Puls and CNE issued a strike notice against low-cost airline Ryanair. BeCA, the professional association representing airline pilots in Belgium, supports the action of Ryanair crew members based in Belgium. “The current discontent is based on Ryanair’s continuous circumvention of Belgian labour law,” BeCA writes in a press release, which follows in full: 

Although the Irish company formally agreed in 2019 to apply Belgian labour law, Ryanair is using all means to avoid its commitments. Since 2019, Ryanair has still not set up a stable and competent human resources department. The human resources ‘managers’, young people who have just graduated, remain in service for barely six months before being replaced by newcomers, preventing any continuity of social dialogue to resolve existing problems.

This unacceptable situation has damaging consequences for the flying personnel:

  • salary slips are not correctly drawn up, leading to confusion and errors in payments.
  • COVID temporary unemployment days have not always been correctly reported to the ONSS, resulting in incorrect COVID unemployment benefits to date.
  • Individual warning letters followed by disciplinary procedures are sent to pilots under medical certificates who Ryanair deems “too often ill”. This creates unacceptable pressure on crews.
  • Young co-pilots are mainly hired as freelancers, despite their repeated demands for direct contract, situation which makes them personally responsible and liable for this arrangement, which has been questioned by the authorities.
  • The company forced its pilots during the Covid crisis to accept pay cuts under threat of redundancies that were not necessary or justified, and set up a system to circumvent automatic pay indexation.

Such practices continually increase social tensions within the company. Ryanair has become Europe’s largest carrier, and will be one of the only companies to make a profit by 2022. Mr O’Leary recently announced an estimated profit of €1 billion for 2022. The wage concessions demanded under the threat of redundancies are therefore no longer justified. Let’s not forget that Belgium is an extremely juicy market for Ryanair, as Charleroi is the third most profitable of 86 European bases.

Ryanair pilots are demanding that employee rights under Belgian law are respected and that a real social dialogue is established. Ryanair has so far only solved problems and disputes with its employees through conflict.

The pilots bitterly regret having to use the last resort of strike action to make their voices heard, and apologise in advance to their passengers for the inconvenience caused. It is up to Ryanair to change the way it manages its staff and become a modern and respectable company for its workers and passengers.

Aviation24.be asked Ryanair for a reply.

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