Ryanair's UK pilots announce strike dates in pay dispute

The budget airline is yet to announce exactly which flights will be affected

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has set strike dates for UK-based Ryanair pilots following an industrial action vote. Decision comes after ballot saw 80% vote in favour of strike action on a 72% turnout.

As a result, two strike dates were set. The first stoppage will last 48 hours, from Thursday, 22 August until Friday, 23 August. The second then will cover three days, from Monday, 2 September until Wednesday, 4 September. Ryanair is yet to announce exactly which flights will be affected by the strikes and is unlikely to do so until two or three days before the strike dates. In that regard BALPA said pilots did not want to disrupt travel plans and it hoped strikes could be avoided if Ryanair came to the negotiating table. The airline, however, responded angrily, accusing the union of causing "unnecessary disruption" to customers and having no mandate to strike.

According to BALPA, Ryanair is to be blamed for the strikes because of its refusal to deal with unions. It said this has resulted in “a management that apparently doesn’t understand how to work with unions”, and “a company that doesn’t have a number of standard agreements that any union would reasonably expect in any workplace”. BALPA’s claim includes several issues including pensions, loss of license insurance, maternity benefits, allowances, and Ryanair’s pay structure.

“We have had no formal offer from Ryanair and it is imperative that we resolve this dispute urgently to avoid strike action. No pilot wants to spoil the public’s travel plans but at the moment it seems we have no choice,” Brian Strutton, BALPA general secretary, said.

Ryanair claimed the strike action had the support of less than 30% of Ryanair’s UK pilots. It also said that less than 50% of Ryanair’s UK pilots are members of BALPA, and of these, just 57% voted in favour of industrial action.

“BALPA have no mandate to disrupt our customers’ holidays and flights, particularly at a time when UK pilots are facing job losses due to the Boeing MAX delivery delays, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October,” a statement from Ryanair said.

Earlier this year, Ryanair has admitted a series of headwinds facing its business as the industry battles higher fuel bills at a time of greater economic uncertainty. Profits have been squeezed by falling fares - a result of stiff competition. It has also been forced to trim its growth plans because of the crisis facing the grounded Boeing 737 MAX fleet. As pilots in the UK and Ireland voted in their strike ballot, it also emerged last week that Ryanair was planning to cut 900 jobs because it had too many staff to meet its needs. The company's boss, Michael O'Leary, said 500 of those under threat were pilots.

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