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Ryanair offers to recognise unions as first-ever strikes loom

[LONDON] Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest discount airline, said it's ready to allow pilots to organise into trade unions as it seeks to head off strike action.

The Irish company has written to pilot organisations in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting each of them to talks "to recognise these unions as the representative body for pilots in Ryanair in each of these countries," it said in a statement Friday.

The bodies will be recognised so long as they establish committees of Ryanair pilots to deal with issues relating to the company, the release said, adding that there will be no engagement with pilots who fly for competitor airlines. It called on crews to call off planned walkouts.

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association told the carrier Tuesday that they'll halt work for a day on Dec 20 over Ryanair's refusal to recognise labour groups.

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Italian crew already plan a four-hour walkout on Dec 15. Vereinigung Cockpit, which represents flight-deck crews in Germany, said Ryanair pilots based there plan stoppages "at any time", though they declined to specify a date.

"Ryanair will now change its long-standing policy of not recognising unions in order to avoid any threat of disruption to its customers and its flights from pilot unions during Christmas week," the company said.

Chief executive officer Michael O'Leary has repeatedly fought attempts to gain union representation. Today's action by pilots and flight attendants in Italy would be Ryanair's first-ever strike.

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