Irish Pilot Union Suspends Strike Ahead of Ryanair Talks

DUBLIN: The union representing Ireland-based Ryanair pilots suspended upcoming strike action on Sunday (Dec 17) after the no-frills airline agreed to talks.

The Irish carrier on Friday offered to recognise unions for the first time after pilots in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal threatened walkouts, throwing Christmas travel plans into chaos.

The airline said Saturday it was prepared to meet representatives from Impact, to which the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) is affiliated, on Tuesday in a bid to avert the strike.

Impact initially responded on Sunday by saying it would not suspend the walk-out until after meeting Ryanair, but announced in a later statement that the strike was off.

"The union has agreed to meet management on Tuesday evening, but says it is available to meet sooner," it said, adding that it had asked Ryanair to release its pilot representatives to prepare for and attend the meeting.

The suspended industrial action had been planned with the support of 94 per cent of pilots directly employed by Ryanair in Ireland.

However, a majority of pilots used by the airline in Ireland are not directly employed by the company.The Dublin-based airline said on Friday it would recognise the unions "as long as they establish committees of Ryanair pilots ... as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines".The BALPA union on Saturday said it had accepted Ryanair's offer to represent British-based pilots, but only if the TUC federation of British trade unions was allowed to attend future talks. Friday's announcement also led to Italian pilots' union Anpac and Portuguese union SPAC calling off strike action due to take place next week.

The Portuguese pilots' strike scheduled for Wednesday was suspended by SPAC owing to Ryanair's decision to recognise the union "and its commitment to open negotiations with the aim of entering into a company agreement", it said in a statement.

Pilots in Germany have voted to take industrial action during the Christmas period and German union Vereinigung Cockpit said the onus was now on Ryanair to "prove that this announcement is serious".

In Spain, there are no strikes planned for pilots, but ground staff unions have not ruled out action on Dec 30.

Ryanair, Europe's second-largest airline by passenger numbers, has been forced to cancel 20,000 flights through to March because of pilot scheduling problems stretching back to September.

Despite the difficulties, Ryanair still expects to deliver annual profits after tax of €1.40-1.45 billion (US$1.65-1.71 billion).

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