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Friday 14 December 2018

Ryanair pilots likely to end strikes as talks to resolve dispute restart

Protesting Ryanair pilots at Dublin Airport. Photo: Aoife Moore/PA
Protesting Ryanair pilots at Dublin Airport. Photo: Aoife Moore/PA

Ryanair pilots are likely to stop announcing strikes as talks to resolve a row over terms and conditions get under way on Monday.

It is highly unlikely that trade union Forsa will set any further strike dates as negotiations chaired by mediator Kieran Mulvey begin.

Sources revealed that the airline may be asked to lift its threat of job cuts after issuing protective notices to more than 300 Irish-based staff as part of a deal.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary asked Mr Mulvey to step in last week as a row over the pilots' demand for a seniority system to decide holidays and base transfers worsened.

It is understood he favoured an independent mediator rather than an intervention by the state mediation bodies.

His senior executives have described the bodies' activity as "glacial".

The talks come as 55,000 passengers suffered flight cancellations yesterday when pilots in five countries went on strike.

It was the Irish-based pilots' fifth 24-hour stoppage.

The war of words between the parties continued yesterday as Forsa blamed Ryanair for the fact that the strike went ahead due to a failure to recognise the need for a mediator earlier.

Ryanair said 85pc of its flights operated as normal despite the "unjustified" strike action.

In response to unions serving strike notices, Ryanair had announced the cancellations of 250 flights in and out of Germany, 104 to and from Belgium and 42 in Sweden and Ireland.

The airline expected the travel plans of 42,000 people to be hit by the action in Germany alone, with most passengers switched to another Ryanair flight and the remainder either refunded or re-routed.

Sympathised

"What I find unjustified is that the pilots draw the short straw, because people want to fly cheaply," said Daniel Flamman, one of several passengers at Frankfurt airport who said they sympathised with the pilots.

"It's annoying that it's happening in the summer holidays, but it's the only means they have."

Ingolf Schumacher, pay negotiator at Germany's Vereinigung Cockpit union, said pilots had to be prepared for "a very long battle". She said it could take months to push through change at Europe's biggest low-cost carrier.

The unrest is one of the most serious challenges to face long-term chief executive Michael O'Leary, who was once quoted as saying he would rather cut off his hand than recognise unions.

On another occasion he crossed a picket line of baggage handlers to help load a plane.

The outspoken Mr O'Leary has in recent years tried to soften Ryanair's abrasive public image, fearing it could be counter-productive for Europe's most profitable airline.

Among other issues, unions are seeking changes to Ryan- air's practice of moving staff to different bases without much notice and a reduction in hours.

A Dutch court rejected a case from Ryanair seeking to block pilots in the Netherlands from joining yesterday's industrial action.

The price of shares in Ryanair have fallen 21pc since the action ramped up in mid-July and are now just below €13.

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