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Around 100 Ryanair pilots from the airline’s Dublin base have announced a strike for Thursday July 12, to last for 24 hours, and cabin crew from elsewhere around Europe are threatening to do the same.

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What’s happened?

There’s been a long-running feud between staff and management at the Irish carrier, and the last time strikes were threatened was just before Christmas in 2017. CEO Michael O’Leary narrowly averted them by finally agreeing to recognise unions for the first time in Ryanair's 34-year history. But employees are claiming there’s been little in the way of actual progress since then, and are pushing for more rights.

Why are pilots striking?

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) held a summit in Dublin in which pilots and cabin crew put together a list of 34 demands. O’Leary branded them “pointless”. A rep for the ITF stated: “Conditions at Ryanair have been heavily criticised over the last few years, with the range of issues highlighted including poverty pay, draconian disciplinary procedures, unachievable sales targetsand staff having to pay for items that most decent employers provide.”

Pilots are asking for a change in seniority rules so that those who have worked at Ryanair the longest would be eligible for first option on base transfers and annual leave. Cabin crew want better rights to sick pay and the end of steep sales targets on items like perfume and scratchcards, among other things.

What does Ryanair say?

A spokesman for Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, argues that it has “already engaged in extensive negotiations with national cabin crew unions across Europe during which all of these, and other issues, are being negotiated.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Ryanair’s chief people officer Eddie Wilson wrote to the union: “Having already agreed a 20 per cent pilot pay increase this year, and having already received our proposals on both base transfers and a seniority list, we invite you to call off this unnecessary strike as there is no reasonable grounds for [your] threat to disrupt the travel plans of our Irish customers next Thursday.”

Which flights will be affected?

Only Irish routes will face cancellations, with Ryanair stating: “Since Ireland accounts for less than 7 per cent of Ryanair flights, we expect that 93 per cent of our customers will be unaffected by any strike.” The airline has said it will inform customers of any changes next Tuesday by email and SMS. In its 33-year history, a Ryanair strike has never actually gone ahead, so it’s feasible that O’Leary will manage to avoid it once again.

“Yet again this weekend, French ATC will strike on Saturday and Sunday leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled, disrupting the holiday plans of thousands of passengers,” O’Leary lamented in June, warning that European ATC providers are “approaching the point of meltdown”.

Also weighing in on the matter, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, which owns British Airways, said that air traffic control strikes on the Continent were more of a threat to airlines than rising fuel prices.

“The thing most impacting is ATC strikes and the ongoing ATC environment, which is a mess,” he told an aviation summit in Sydney. “It is destroying traffic throughout Europe. We thought it would get better in 2018 but it’s getting worse.”

There have also been strike threats from Spanish ATC staff, which would affect flights between the UK and holiday spots including Ibiza, Barcelona, Majorca and Menorca. The ATC union is calling for an increased annual leave allowance and more consistent rotas. The strikes, which were planned for July and August, look like they’ve been called off now after the Spanish government negotiated a deal with the union.




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