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Pilot unions take issue with Ryanair negotiating strategy

Pilot representatives across Europe have jointly written to Ryanair calling for changes to how the airline approaches pay and union-recognition talks, and urging it to attend a meeting to discuss their concerns.

In a letter addressed to Ryanair's chief operating officer Peter Bellew and chief people officer Eddie Wilson, and seen by FlightGlobal, 11 unions – including BALPA, ANPAC, FPU and SNPL – identify seven areas for review if the budget carrier is to make their pledge to recognise unions "credible".

They say Ryanair should "meet, recognise and negotiate" with all the representative national pilot unions and associations that contact them.

"Not replying or meeting some of them is not an option, risks undermining Ryanair's credibility, and will be closely monitored by all of us during our respective negotiations," they say.

The unions argue that Ryanair should not interfere with the type of pilots chosen to represent the unions in their company councils or the representatives chosen for unions' own negotiating teams, and that talks with management and should not exclude pilots employed as contractors.

Ryanair should, they add, commit to offering all pilots the option of signing contracts "governed by the local laws of the country where they are based" by 1 March. Furthermore, as a "matter of principle" the airline should phase out "atypical employment" contracts or at least make them the exception, the unions assert.

But they raise the possibility that, where it is legal under the "applicable local law", and "without prejudice to future jurisprudence", the airline could offer an "opt-out option" for pilots wishing to remain in a contractor arrangement, if mutually agreed with the local pilot association.

The unions are petitioning the airline not to seek pay deals with pilots outside of formal union negotiations, as such practice is "very unhelpful to maintain mutual trust, as it tries to sideline the very unions that Ryanair publicly claims to be willing to recognise".

Ryanair should also abandon its "management-imposed" employee representative committee (ERC) system, they propose.

Also on the list of demands are that any unilateral pay increase Ryanair chooses to negotiate with pilots should be accompanied by a "clear recognition" that these do not constitute a union-negotiated deal; any conditions attached to these pay rises should be rendered "null and void"; and that all offers should be backdated to 1 September 2017 when the airline's rostering crisis started, "to ensure no pilot is treated better or worse than their colleagues".

Finally, the unions urge Ryanair to halt all legal proceedings related to "representative activities" undertaken by individual pilots, current or former union representatives, or pilot associations.

The unions want Ryanair to attend a meeting in Brussels on 26, 27 or 28 February.

Ryanair disclosed in December that it planned to recognise trade unions for the first time in its negotiations with pilots. It has since said it is engaged in recognition talks with pilot unions in Italy, Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

In response to FlightGlobal's request for comment, Ryanair highlights it refusal to meet with "any collective group of competitor pilot unions, a number of which represent countries where Ryanair doesn't even have bases or pilots".

It adds: "Any such group of unions has no legal standing or negotiating licence and will only delay our continuing recognition negotiations in a number of European countries."

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