Trial of strength at Ryanair

The biggest pilot strike in Ryanair's history has begun this Friday morning. After the cabin crew strikes two weeks ago, pilots in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Ireland are protesting for better terms of employment. The company's management is coming under real pressure now, journalists write, and point out that Brussels too is partly to blame for the crisis at the Irish budget airline.

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El Mundo (ES) /

Brussels must also do its homework

The EU is also to blame for the precarious situation of employees at the budget airline, El Mundo stresses:

“The Ryanair pilots' strike that began in five European countries today is the result of a loophole in European legislation. A document of the International Transport Workers' Federation to which this newspaper has access shows this. The company is exploiting this loophole to force pilots and cabin crew members, many of whom are recruited through temporary employment agencies, to work according to Irish laws instead of the laws of the country in which they spend most of their working hours. Brussels must close this loophole as quickly as possible - to guarantee the stability of the company and protect its employees, and also to give its customers peace of mind.”

La Croix (FR) /

O'Leary's threat not very credible

La Croix sees the power of the airline's management waning:

“The company's management is trying to maintain the business model that led to the company's success and to keep the costs as low as possible. The company is hugely profitable: Ryanair recorded a profit of 309 million euros in the first quarter of 2018, which, however, was less than for the same period the year before. ... Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has already reacted to the dissatisfaction of the employees by threatening to shift thousands of jobs [to Poland]. The threat is not very believable for those who know that last January he was forced to allow the creation of trade unions at the company to avoid mass resignations. All this shows that even in such a hyper-competitive sector, the cost-cutting strategy has its limits.”

L'Echo (BE) /

Europe's contradictions laid bare

The crisis at the Irish low-cost airline provides insights into the Europeans' tormented souls, L'Echo comments:

“The case of Ryanair sums up the current mood: Give the Europeans bread and low-cost flights and they'll be happy. What do the people want? Local jobs, free holidays. To a certain extent the social crisis that reigns at Ryanair exemplifies the perils of the European model. Someone has to pay for free holidays - too bad if that means renouncing the workers' desire for self-fulfilment? And one must add: too bad if it means sweeping under the carpet the vital challenge our generation faces: namely preventing the world from turning into a steam bath. To a certain extent Ryanair well illustrates Europe faced with its contradictions.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Collective agreement is long overdue

The Tagesspiegel finds it entirely understandable that the pilots are putting up a fight:

“They not only earn considerably less than their colleagues at airlines that are bound by collective agreements, often they don't have adequate protection under employment law. On paper, many of those who are hired by Ryanair work on a freelance basis. The airline doesn't pay any social security contributions for them, and can change their work place at any time. ... A collective agreement with reasonable terms is therefore long overdue. The competition, for instance Easyjet, has shown that this is possible. The company manages to offer cheap flights and still pay its employees union rates.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Can the race to the bottom be stopped?

Aftonbladet is concerned that the working conditions at Ryanair will become the norm:

“The Swedish pilots at Ryanair are not entitled to contractual pensions, sick pay or Swedish working hour regulations and want collective wage agreements. The employer, however, isn't interested. ... A similar scenario is emerging in the labour market as a whole. Unequal competition is getting worse, fewer areas are covered by collective agreements and we are seeing how social dumping can lead to the collapse of entire sectors. Different locations are being played off against each other, employee against employee, in a race to the bottom. Trade union organisation and collaboration are the best instruments for achieving fair wages, good jobs and fair working conditions.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Consumers and employees side by side

In Spain, where in July the cabin crew of Ryanair went on strike, the passengers who were affected have formed an association to sue for collective damages. Lawsuits like this could change the way budget airlines do business, La Vanguardia hopes:

“If the consumers' rebellion really does bear fruit it could be a decisive factor for forcing low-cost airlines to improve the quality of the services they offer. However, that may have the side effect of an increase in prices, since offering better service means paying your staff more. ... The two movements taken together, that of the consumers and that of the staff, will force an evolution in the concept of low-cost airlines and in the strategies employed by these companies.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Cheap travel has its price

La Libre Belgique shows understanding for the dissatisfaction of Ryanair employees:

“The salaries are low, there is practically no social protection, the working atmosphere is unbearable and even inhuman. ... Staff are forced to keep their mouths shut since their contracts are governed by Irish law rather than the laws of each country. It's telling that apart from higher wages what Ryanair's staff are demanding is above all more respect. ... Ryanair is no longer the stuff of dreams. The company made it possible for a large majority of people to travel. It also forced other airlines to lower their prices. But at what social cost?”

Le Soir (BE) /

Ryanair's insolence demands a concerted response

Ryanair has announced that it will shift jobs to Poland in response to the strike. The employees need to modify their strategy, Le Soir advises:

“Their dispute is labyrinthine, because their adversary is expert in the strategy of 'divide and conquer'. As long as it's easy to hire teams in one country in reaction to staff demands in another, social Europe will remain a game of cat and mouse. ... Above all, however, without better coordination between the demands of the pilots on the one hand and the cabin crew on the other, any action will be ineffective.”