Low costs for travelers, low pay for workers: labor unrest continues for Ryanair
By Abby White
Ryanair crews in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain went on strike July 25 and 26, protesting low pay, insufficient employment rights and a harsh workplace culture. The strike forced Ryanair, a low-cost airline, to cancel hundreds of flights, affecting almost 50,000 passengers – 12 percent of Ryanair’s customers flying those days.
Liz Blackshaw, the campaigns director for the International Transport Workers’ Federation, an umbrella organization for the Ryanair crews’ unions, said the striking workers needed “concrete changes in improvement for cabin crew.”
“We want Ryanair to understand that this level of strike will not go away unless they make concrete improvements and negotiate in good faith, country by country,” Blackshaw said.
This strike is just the latest chapter in Ryanair’s ongoing labor disputes. Determined to offer lower ticket prices than its rivals, Ryanair refused to recognize unions from 1985 until last December, when pilots demanded union representation and more secure contracts after Ryanair tried to cut their vacations over a scheduling issue.
Ryanair has claimed to make progress with its workers, coming to agreements with Italian and German unions last week. However, Irish crews have had less luck. This month, after several strikes by pilots in Dublin, Ryanair issued notices to more than 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew members that Ryanair might not need them after October, due to a downturn in bookings and fares.
Ryanair has yet to accede to the crews who went on strike July 25 and 26. In a statement before the strike, Ryanair called the strike “unnecessary” and “unjustified,” claiming that Ryanair employees “enjoy great pay . . . , industry leading rosters . . . , great sales commissions, uniform allowances and sick pay.”
The strikes, along with other pressures, have hurt Ryanair’s net earnings. Pay increases, lower fares and higher oil prices caused post-tax profits to drop by 20 percent in the last quarter compared to the same period last year. Analysts suggest that Ryanair will have to add services to continue growing, such as flights to larger airports and increased flexibility with bookings. However, adding those services will raise costs even more, potentially forcing Ryanair to increase ticket prices or cancel flights.
In the meantime, Ryanair shows no signs of meeting its workers’ demands.
“We expect further strikes over the peak summer period,” the company said in its earnings statement. “We are not prepared to concede to unreasonable demands that will compromise either our low fares or our highly efficient model.”
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