Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary on Tuesday accused Spain’s main pilots’ union of blocking an agreement on pay rises as the low-cost airline negotiates to recognise unions in Spain and elsewhere.
Traditionally against union representation for staff, the carrier only recently changed its stance after it was forced to cancel thousands of flights, mainly because of botched holiday scheduling for pilots that led them to ask for better working conditions.
In January, for the first time, it recognised a British pilots’ union.
O’Leary said Spain, which provides Ryanair with 27 percent of its traffic, “is very important for us, which is why we want to do an agreement with Sepla (the union).”
Speaking to reporters in Madrid, he insisted Ryanair was going to recognise Spanish unions.
“We are serious about it and we want them to be equally serious with us,” he said.
But “we wrote two letters (in January), offering them a recognition agreement and a 20 percent salary raise for the Spanish pilots”.
“Sepla has not replied to those letters and so the 20 percent increase for pilots is late.”
He added that Ryanair would now write directly to pilots to propose the rise, “while we continue to try to finalise the agreement with Sepla.”
Sepla retorted that the airline had posed as a condition for the raise that Ryanair designates the staff representative who negotiates on behalf of fellow pilots.
The union rejects this, wanting to choose the representative themselves.
It also wants so-called contractors who fly for Ryanair but aren’t direct employees to be integrated into the airline as such, so that they too can get union representation and benefits such as maternity leave.
“We’re not going to leave half our colleagues out of negotiations,” it said in a statement.
Sepla has also decided to take legal action against Ryanair to force it to give its pilots Spanish contracts.
O’Leary retorted “legal action would take months or years to resolve.”