Ryanair Pilot Group has called upon Ryanair's chief executive Michael O’Leary to honour his public statement that he would talk to the organisation if it represented more than half the pilots working for the Irish budget carrier.
The chairman of the RPG's interim council, Evert van Zwol, said at a press conference in Brussels that the organisation now represents "well over 50% of Ryanair pilots, both directly employed and contracted", and that independent verification of the numbers would be welcomed.
Van Zwol, also a member of Dutch airline-pilot association VNV, says he knows with absolute confidence that RPG membership now exceeds the "1,601 pilots" he says the airline would consider to constitute a representative body. "We confirm that well over 1,601 pilots have registered with the RPG," says van Zwol.
The interim council says the RPG "started through the actions of a group of Ryanair pilots… with the aid of the European Cockpit Association [ECA] and its member associations, using the internet and social media to determine what the wider pilot body in Ryanair actually wanted".
Ryanair has argued that the RPG is a collection of pilot-union representatives working for "rival airlines" and that it does not represent Ryanair pilots at all.
The RPG's interim council does indeed consist of pilots who work for other airlines but are members of organisations like the ECA or the Irish Airline Pilots Association. Ted Murphy, of IALPA, describes "a vortex of hostile legal activity" by Ryanair aimed at individual council members, which van Zwol says the council is confident it can fight off.
Asked whether the RPG would provide Ryanair with a list of members to prove the Group’s validity, van Zwol says it categorically would not do so.
Present at the press conference was interim-council member John Goss, a long-time Ryanair pilot dismissed for taking part in a UK television documentary about the airline. Goss says he is unable to answer questions because he is the subject of legal action by Ryanair following the Channel 4 broadcast.
The RPG is "a work in progress", van Zwol admits, because at present there is no provision in European Union law to recognise a group of employees based in multiple EU member states, even if they all work for the same company which is itself recognised as a European corporate entity.
Ryanair operates its aircraft from 57 bases in Europe.
Van Zwol says Europe "needs new structures and new ways of thinking" for a multinational professional pilot group to function, especially in the face of determined corporate resistance.
O’Leary has previously told Flightglobal that the purpose of having more than 70% of its pilots work on self-employed contracts was to prevent them from being able to form a bargaining unit.
The RPG lists its members’ priorities: a common basic contract of employment for all pilots; a resolution of all tax issues by Ryanair; a transparent and fair annual leave system; a transparent and effective base transfer system; and reinstatement, before any disputes will be resolved, of any colleague threatened, disciplined or sanctioned in the course of establishing this new representation process.
O’Leary was not available for comment when Flightglobal telephoned him, but Ryanair’s press office put out this statement: “We don’t comment on the activity or false claims of KLM or Aer Lingus pilots. Sorry.”