Ryanair agrees to recognise pilots' unions to stave off pre-Christmas strike

Ryanair has agreed to recognise pilots' unions in a bid to stave off a potentially-crippling strike in the days before Christmas, the airline said.

But the offer from the boss of the low-cost carrier, Michael O'Leary, calls for staff representative bodies in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal to set up special committees to deal with issues related to the airline.

Ryanair said it was changing its longstanding policy of not recognising unions to avoid the threat of disruption to customers.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

One day of industrial action had been planned for Wednesday December 20 and would have mostly involved captains.

Mr O'Leary said the pilots should call off the threat.

"Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week," he said.

"If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognise them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week."

The strike threat in Ireland was issued through Impact, which the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa) is affiliated to.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary (Niall Carson/PA)
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary (Niall Carson/PA)

It warned Mr O'Leary that the action would either ground flights or generate substantial losses for the company.

In response the airline boss said recognising unions would be a significant change for Ryanair.

"But we have delivered radical change before," Mr O'Leary said.

"Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognised national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year."

In a letter to the Impact trade union in Dublin, Ryanair offered to sit down with Ialpa.

It had been expected that the number of Ryanair employees involved in next Wednesday's planned strike would be fewer than the total number of Irish-based Ryanair pilots.

But because it primarily involved captains it had the potential to cause severe disruption as planes cannot legally or safely fly without the senior pilot.

A spokesman for the Impact trade union said it had not yet received any correspondence from Ryanair with the offer.

"Obviously, when we do we will be giving it full consideration," he said.