On Monday August 8th, the CNE and ACV Puls unions announced that Ryanair pilots in Belgium will conduct another strike on August 14th and 15th, the 3rd one in less than a month. Belgian pilots conducted a strike on the weekends of July 15-16 and July 29-30. This is their first weekday action, although it will be the end of the extended Assumption weekend. The strike will only affect Charleroi airport, as no Ryanair aircraft are based at Brussels airport and flights are operated from other bases.
The pilots of Ireland’s low-cost airline are still demanding restoration of their wages after the cuts made during pandemic; in 2020 Ryanair pilots took a 20% pay cut to help the company through the crisis. Pilots are also pointing to problems concerning the down-time they are granted between flights.
Veerle Verleyen of the Christian trade union ACV told Belgian news outlet VRT that “Ryanair must respect Belgian labour laws, they can’t unilaterally make changes to a collective labour agreement. These are illegal practices”. Despite several meetings, no way out of the impasse between has yet been found. “We haven’t received a single valid proposal from them,” said Didier Lebbe, permanent secretary of the CNE union. “All we’ve received are threats and illegal proposals.”
The Christian unions CNE and ACV Puls and the Belgian Cockpit Association (Beca) wrote a letter to Eddie Wilson, CEO of Ryanair to try to escalate the urgency of their request. The reply they received was however not what they had wished for. “His reply is a copy-paste of what the Human Resources Director has sent us so far,” Lebbe said to Belgian media. According to him, the low-cost carrier continues to demand that certain pilots withdraw the criminal complaint they have lodged against it, “which is impossible since the investigations have already been launched,” he said.
We haven’t received a single valid proposal from them. All we’ve received are threats and illegal proposals.Didier Lebbe, CNE union
According to the unions, Ryanair has continued to modify pilots’ schedules and rest periods, going against a collective labor agreement expiring in October 2024, which is why the Belgian pilots’ strike notice runs until then. “And they’re even calling into question Belgium’s wage indexation system,” said Lebbe. The unions and BeCA are appealing to political authorities to put a stop to what they see as the company’s illegal actions.
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.