FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair said on Tuesday that “wildcat” strikes by pilots and cabin crew in Germany would lead to job cuts if they continued, after unions called for a full day of walkouts on Wednesday.
Europe’s biggest budget carrier is cancelling 150 out of a total 400 flights scheduled to fly to and from Germany on Wednesday due to the strike, Ryanair Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs told a news conference in Frankfurt.
“These are wildcat strikes designed to cause maximum disruption to our customers and maximum damage to the Ryanair business,” he said, adding that Ryanair management was willing to resume negotiations anytime.
“But if we have these lightning strikes it’s going to be difficult to operate on a normal basis in Germany,” Chief Operations Officer Peter Bellew told the same news conference.
German pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) has called on Ryanair to agree to mediation in its dispute over pay and terms, but there has been disagreement over who the mediator should be.
Ryanair’s Jacobs said the airline was willing to enter mediation with the pilots and believed it had offered VC everything it had asked for.
Ryanair aims to have all of its German pilots on direct employment contracts by the end of the year, up from 80 percent now, Jacobs added.
Earlier, in a statement, Jacobs said continued strikes would lead “to base cuts and job cuts for both German pilots and cabin crew, particularly at some secondary German bases, which are loss-making during the winter season”.
The Irish carrier has come under fire from unions, especially in Germany, for its practice of employing some pilots via third-party agencies, such as McGinley Aviation. The airline last year decided to recognise unions in an attempt to improve relations with its pilots and ease a staffing crunch.
German services union Verdi is seeking a substantial pay increase as well as local contracts for around 1,000 cabin crew at Ryanair. It said management had, however, offered local contracts only from 2022.
The carrier suffered its worst ever strikes this summer, but secured a breakthrough in August when it reached a deal with Irish pilots and said it was hopeful it could secure deals in other markets soon.
Last week, however, seven trade unions representing Ryanair cabin crew in Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands threatened to hold a strike in late September unless the airline agrees to improve working conditions.
Sweden’s Air Line Pilots Association (SPF) is considering taking Ryanair to court and does not rule out further strike action, Chairman Martin Lindgren told Reuters on Tuesday.
The union objects to Ryanair’s insistence that pilots be represented in negotiations by Ryanair staff or SPF staff not employed by a rival airline. Ryanair argues that EU competition rules prevent it from disclosing business secrets to union representatives employed by competitors, he said.
Writing by Maria Sheahan; additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm and Nadine Schimroszik in Berlin; Editing by Thomas Seythal and Gareth Jones