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Ryanair faces new strike threat as Spanish pilots sound warning

Spanish union SEPLA is considering industrial action against Irish low-cost operator Ryanair in response to the possible dismissal of 100 pilots.

Ryanair told SEPLA it was considering reducing pilot numbers during a meeting on 7 August, says the union. The cutbacks could include the closure of bases at Las Palmas, Tenerife South and possibly Girona.

"The pilots' union is not willing to accept that dismissals occur," states SEPLA, arguing that these would be "the product of nefarious management by Ryanair". SEPLA adds that that it will now look at what action it could take, including strikes.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary recently warned that the airline had a surplus of around 500 pilots and 400 cabin crew as a result of higher staff retention and delays to deliveries of Boeing 737 Max jets. Staff cutbacks would likely begin at the end of the year's summer season, he indicated.

The airline has long been embroiled in a dispute with SEPLA over working terms for pilots. Although a recognition agreement was signed by Ryanair with the union earlier in the year, talks over a collective labour agreement have yet to bear fruit, and SEPLA is now accusing the airline of negotiating in bad faith.

"The negotiations, which to date have been carried out with absolute slowness and lack of willingness to negotiate by Ryanair, are now contaminated by this unexpected announcement of dismissals," SEPLA complains.

Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment on the dispute.

In a tumultuous day for Ryanair's industrial relations, the airline is separately seeking to avert strike action by UK pilots later in the summer. Members of BALPA voted overwhelmingly for strikes on 7 August, leading the union to authorise industrial action on 22-23 August and 2-4 September.

Although 80% of votes cast backed the move, on turnout of 72%, Ryanair said this masks the facts that less than three in 10 of all its UK pilots voted for the strikes, and that only around a third of them took part in the BALPA ballot.

"BALPA have no mandate to disrupt our customers holidays and flights, particularly at a time when UK pilots are facing job losses due to the Boeing [737] Max delivery delays, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October," said Ryanair.

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