Ryanair’s legal battle royale with its Belgian-based pilots has ended with the Irish so-called budget carrier having “to align itself with the Belgian social dialogue model”, in the words of ACV union spokesperson Hans Elsen.
“A major victory”
Essentially, the airline has had to back down and agree to a raft of pilot demands on sick pay, salary increments and working terms and conditions. But the notoriously bellicose carrier has only reached this point after putting the pilots through numerous days of industrial action, dozens of legal challenges and lawsuits and eighteen months of talks.
In what Aviation24 is branding a “historic agreement” and ACV is calling both a “major victory” and “a significant milestone”, Ryanair has now acknowledged that it must pay the pilots their “rightfully deserved” overdue holiday pay in accordance with their full employment terms, as well shelling out for the mandatory sector-based salary increase that it had been refusing to pay, and obeying Belgian rules on paying for sick leave.
Collective bargaining agreement
In addition, the airline and pilots have reached accord on the adjustment of salaries during times of “technical unemployment” such as the lay-offs that happened during Covid-19. The new agreement protects pilots’ financial security.
What’s more, Ryanair has now signed up to a three-year collective bargaining agreement that will see pilot salaries gradually brought in line with pre-pandemic levels.
Another important aspect of ongoing pilot grievances in the aviation sector concerns working terms and conditions. The three-year bargaining agreement sees Ryanair now accepting that pilots must be given greater say over their working hours and work-life balance.
The pilots had, during the pandemic, agreed to take a pay cut of 20% as long as full pay was restored when the global health situation returned to normal.
As Travel Tomorrow noted after a recent ruling, the airline’s capacity is up by at least 15% and saw profits up 59% to 2.18 billion euros to the end of 2023’s third quarter. To add insult to injury, CEO Michael O’Leary recently upped his own his salary, but did not offer his employees a rise.
Elsen hailed the settlement as a triumph for the power of collective bargaining. Highlighting the courage it took for the 50 pilots to undertake the dispute with their employer, he dubbed Ryanair “resistant” and celebrated “a victory for the entire pilot group, who, after months of struggle, finally receive recognition.”