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Ryanair faces fresh strike in Europe

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Ryanair braced Friday for what unions warn will be the biggest strike in the airline's history - although the carrier played down fears of disruption for travellers.

[BRUSSELS] Ryanair braced Friday for what unions warn will be the biggest strike in the airline's history - although the carrier played down fears of disruption for travellers.

The Dublin-based carrier said it would have to cancel nearly 250 flights amid walk-outs in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

But the company insisted the vast majority of its 2,400 normally scheduled flights would be unaffected by "these unnecessary strikes".

"We find this strike... unreasonable and somewhat out of sync with the progress we thought we were having," Ryanair COO Peter Bellew said in a conference call with journalists on Thursday.

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Ryanair said in a statement that the vast majority of its 2,400 flights on Friday "will be unaffected by these unnecessary strikes and will operate as scheduled".

Affected customers received email and text message notifications on Tuesday to advise them of cancellations and options, Ryanair said.

Trade unions have claimed that Friday's 24-hour stoppage will be the biggest strike in the Irish carrier's history.

"By not cancelling enough flights for tomorrow's strike, Ryanair's irresponsible behaviour could create tensions and insecurity for all airport staff, Ryanair and the passengers concerned," the Belgian CNE union said in a statement.

Ryanair staff have been seeking higher wages and an end to the practice whereby many have been working as independent contractors without the benefits of staff employees.

WORKERS' RIGHTS

Another key complaint of workers based in countries other than Ireland is the fact that Ryanair has been employing them under Irish legislation.

Staff claim this creates huge insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.

EU Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said on Wednesday air crews should be employed under contracts from the country where they work.

"Respecting EU law is not something over which workers should have to negotiate, nor is it something which can be done differently from country to country. I made this very clear to Mr O'Leary today," Thyssen said in a statement after a meeting between Ryanair's combative chief executive Michael O'Leary and EU officials.

"The internal market is not a jungle; it has clear rules on fair labour mobility and worker protection. This is not an academic debate, but about concrete social rights of workers."

At a press conference O'Leary called for the cancellation of the strike, threatening that he would shrink Ryanair's fleet at two Brussels airports if it went ahead.

Last month, Ryanair pilots across Europe staged a coordinated 24-hour strike to push their demands for better pay and conditions, plunging tens of thousands of passengers into transport chaos at the peak of the busy summer season.

In July, strikes by cockpit and cabin crew disrupted 600 flights in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, affecting 100,000 travellers.

This week, Ryanair signed deals with cabin crew unions in Italy to provide employment contracts under Italian law.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority has called on Ryanair to compensate passengers affected by the strikes.

AFP