Passengers board a Ryanair flight in Gdansk, Poland, on September 27 2017. File photo: REUTERS
Passengers board a Ryanair flight in Gdansk, Poland, on September 27 2017. File photo: REUTERS

Berlin — Pilots and cabin crew at Ryanair in Germany staged a full-day walkout on Wednesday and threatened further strikes to put pressure on management in labour talks with Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said it would take time to agree deals with unions, adding that even though he did not like the strikes, he was willing to put up with them to defend the company’s low-cost business model.

O’Leary said the strikes were having a tiny effect on overall operations, prompting shares in Ryanair to reverse earlier modest losses to trade 0.6% up by 11:25 GMT.

The airline had said on Tuesday it would cancel 150 out of a total 400 flights scheduled to fly to and from Germany on Wednesday due to the strike and warned that such “wildcat” strikes would lead to job cuts if they continued.

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. The union threatened to call further strikes if management does not make a better offer.

“As long as Ryanair does not make improved offers, there may have to be further strikes here,” said VC negotiator Ingolf Schumacher.

Ryanair says its latest offer to VC addressed all of the union’s demands and that the walkouts were unreasonable.

Cheaper than taxi

In July Ryanair said it would move 20% of its Dublin-based fleet to Poland due, in part, to the damage strike action was doing to bookings but reversed the decision last Friday following agreement with unions.

Ryanair 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 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 about 1,000 cabin crew at Ryanair.

It said management had, however, offered local contracts only from 2022.

“If you buy a ticket which is cheaper than the taxi ride to the airport everyone should realise that something is wrong with the system, that these prices can’t fund the company,” Verdi spokesman Andreas Splanemann said at Berlin’s Schönefeld airport.

At Germany’s biggest airport in Frankfurt, union members carried banners saying “Ryanair stop squeezing your crew”, through a terminal.

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.