Never the shrinking violet, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has come up with another dictatorial wheeze for cutting costs. He's having to park some aeroplanes for the winter because of the effects of the econonomic downturn on air travel, so he needs fewer pilots for a few months.

But when the days begin to lengthen again and the fleet are all airborne once more Ryanair will need all its pilots again. So what to do? Redundancies? Far too costly.

O'Leary told his pilots he wanted volunteers for unpaid gardening leave this winter, and if no-one steps forward, they'll all be given compulsory gardening leave. Oh yes, and if they don't like it they can leave. There are plenty of jobless XL Airways pilots out there, he points out - just in case his aviators hadn't noticed.

Well, the O'Leary method is one way to run an airline, and it certainly seems to work for its investors. No-one who works for him will be surprised at his latest interpretation of their contracts of employment. Besides which, why should O'Leary treat his employees differently from his customers? They don't get any respect either, but they keep coming back.

The Irish Air Line Pilots Association says this is simply another way of imposing a pay cut. They're right. Times may be hard for the airlines, but Ryanair will be one of the most successful survivors when the good times return. This will be so not only because O'Leary's management team is highly able, but also because its workforce earns every penny of its pay already. If the carrier were seriously on the ropes a measure like this - following some form of consultation - would appear reasonable. But O'Leary doesn't even pretend to do consultation, and Ryanair isn't on the ropes, so it doesn't look good at all.

Source: Flight International