Belgian union rejects Ryanair offer ahead of planned strike

One-day walkout in several countries planned for Sept. 28
||Last Updated: 09/28/2018
Labour relations
Passengers arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport during a Ryanair wider European strike to protest slow progress in negotiating a collective labour agreement in a file photo. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The union representing Ryanair cabin crew in Belgium has rejected an offer from the Irish airline ahead of a planned one-day strike on Sept. 28, the union said on Wednesday.

Separately, European pilots threatened new strikes against Ryanair if talks with unions did not progress more quickly.

Europe’s biggest budget airline offered to follow Belgian employment law from March 2020 for Ryanair contracted employees, seeking to address one of the major complaints over the company’s policy to staff under Irish contracts.

However, the Belgian union, CNE, said that would only help about half of its workers, as Ryanair had also been hiring using recruiter Crewlink which issues its own contracts.

The union said the offer was an “unacceptable” attempt to divide workers in order to buy time ahead of the planned strike.

“It’s a deception on the part of Ryanair,” CNE spokesman Yves Lambot told Reuters.

The threatened strike by cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain is aimed at pressuring shareholders set to meet on Sept. 20 to address Ryanair’s labour agreements, union officials announced last week.

The 24-hour strike is planned for Sept. 28 and unions will strike once a month until demands are met.

The Belgian union met with Ryanair officials before announcing the strike and asked for an offer by Tuesday. The offer was made on Tuesday evening, Lambot said.

Ryanair stood by its statement last week that even if there is a strike, it expects a significant majority of its cabin crew in Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal to work normally, as they have during previous strikes.

The company’s shares were up about one per cent on Wednesday.

Separately, the European Cockpit Association, which represents pilots in Europe, called on Wednesday for a change in the management and board of the airline.

“Developments over the past months have clearly shown that the relationship between Ryanair management and its employees has become dysfunctional, and this is now putting at risk the continued success of the airline,” association President Dirk Polloczek said in a statement.

“Apart from two agreements on targeted terms and conditions reached in Italy and Ireland, negotiations with pilot unions across Europe are either blocked or progressing at snail’s pace. As a result, industrial unrest is more present – and more likely in future – than it ever was,” the statement said.

A Ryanair board member said on Tuesday that CEO Michael O’Leary would continue at the company’s helm for at least five more years.

“That would be a disappointment” and would not show a change in attitude within the company, Lambot said.

In another setback for the airline, a Spanish judge has ruled a former Ryanair pilot should have been considered an employee and not an independent contractor.

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