Belgium-based Ryanair pilots have been at odds with management for over a year, having taken industrial action multiple times over pay and work conditions. In September 2022, 48 Ryanair pilots even took the airline to court after their summer strikes had left management unhinged over their outcries about low wages and tough working conditions.
With no agreeable solution in sight, the pilots are threatening another strike for 15 and 16 July, unless the airline is willing to start negotiating by 7 July. Besides their salaries still not back to pre-pandemic levels, pilots are also flagging Ryanair’s illegal attempt at modifying their working schedules.
We have been trying to engage in dialogue with Ryanair for six months, but to no avail so now we have to pull the emergency brake.Hans Elsen, ACV Puls union
When Covid-19 broke out and travel restrictions left airlines basically without business, many resorted to firing staff, but Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO decided to lower everyone’s salary, including his own, and keep everybody employed. The pilots signed an agreement in 2020 to have their salaries reduced by 20% under the condition of having the pay brought back as soon as the crisis would end. However, Christian trade union CNE/ACV Puls said the pilots signed the 2020 agreement only because they were being threatened and blackmailed.
Moreover, the pilots’ current labour agreement states they have to be on stand-by 5 days a week, meaning they should be prepared to fly at any time in case they are needed, and Ryanair wants to extend that to 6 days, without compensating for the lost day off. “Belgian legislation clearly states that Ryanair cannot change this unilaterally. They have already received several notifications about that, but they just ignore them”, explained Hans Elsen of the Christian union ACV Puls. “In theory Ryanair follows Belgian rules, but in practice they implement what they want without taking working conditions into account.”
Ryanair is now once again making 1.8 billion euros in profits, Charleroi is the second most profitable base, but the company does not want to share its profits with their pilots.Hans Elsen, ACV Puls union
“We know it could cause a lot of difficulties for travellers, but we have been trying to engage in dialogue for six months now, all to no avail. Ryanair is a company that only listens when it hurts economically. Hopefully with this action we will force them to sit down and listen to our pilots”, said Elsen, adding that the strike for 15 and 16 July will only go ahead if the airline refuses to “sit around the table by Friday afternoon”.
Starting in the summer of 2022, Ryanair has been hit by multiple strikes from the Belgian based staff, both pilots and cabin crew, but the only response from management was a threat to completely leave the country. In January 2023, strikes by cabin crew forced Ryanair to cancel over 200 flights on New Year’s weekend and the following one.
The personnel have complained multiple times about their wages still not being back to pre-Covid levels and, despite the airline posting a profit of €170 million in the first quarter of 2022 and CEO Michal O’Leary’s salary going up, the staff’s pleas have so far been left without a satisfactory reply.