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Spanish unions press ahead with strike after Ryanair talks fail

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Unions representing Ryanair's cabin crew in Spain on Tuesday said they would press ahead with a planned strike this week after talks with management over pay and conditions for contracted employees failed.

[MADRID] Unions representing Ryanair's cabin crew in Spain on Tuesday said they would press ahead with a planned strike this week after talks with management over pay and conditions for contracted employees failed.

Five unions said they would uphold a call to strike for Ryanair cabin staff in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy on Wednesday and Thursday, forcing the Irish low-cost carrier to cancel 600 flights.

In Spain, the USO and Sitcpla unions held talks with Ryanair representatives for hours on Tuesday evening before announcing that a strike was now unavoidable.

"We will go ahead with the strike," said USO-aerien representative Ernesto Iglesias as he left the meeting.

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He said Ryanair was continuing to refuse to integrate into the company employees who were contracted in by agencies and "to eliminate temporary work and different salaries among different personnel."

Founded 33 years ago in Dublin, the Irish low-cost carrier has grown quickly and boasts lower costs per passenger than its competitors.

But employees have long slammed their working conditions and the airline has been hit by several strikes this year.

Unions want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as its own employees.

They are also asking that Ryanair staff be employed according to the national legislation of the country they work in, rather than that of Ireland as is currently the case.

The unions had earlier dismissed a warning from the airline that it will cut jobs if its crew continues to stage strikes.

MORE STRIKES OVER SUMMER

Ryanair said on Monday that it expects more strikes over the summer as it is not "prepared to concede to unreasonable demands" and warned that if they do continue "we will have to review our winter schedule, which may lead to fleet reductions at disrupted bases and job losses".

But the president of Spain's Sitcpla cabin crew union said he did not believe Ryanair would scale back its flights in Spain because it generates 20 per cent of its revenues in the country, the world's second tourist destination after France.

"Sincerely, it is a threat because that is Ryanair's style but that does not frighten us at all," Monique Duthiers told a news conference in Madrid, just before unions were due to hold their final round of talks with the airline before the strike is set to begin.

USO-aerien's Iglesias argued that if Ryanair cut back its flights in Spain other airlines would move in because the country is "interesting" commercially.

"If it is not Ryanair it will be another company that gives us work," he said.

"What we will not accept is that a foreign company comes here, makes a profit, exploits workers in this country and threatens to cease their activity."

Ryanair argues that since its planes fly under the Irish flag and most of its employees work on board planes, its staff are covered by Irish law.

Ryanair faced a third day of strikes by its pilots in Ireland on Tuesday over pay and other conditions, resulting in the cancellation of 16 flights affecting 2,500 passengers.

AFP