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Ryanair agrees to recognize British pilots union for first time

Key Points
  • The Irish airline said it would allow Britain's pilots' association to start negotiating on issues such as pay and holidays.
  • The move marks the first time Ryanair has recognized a trade union in its 32-year history.
A Ryanair plane on the tarmac in Rome.
Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Ryanair said it would allow Britain's pilots' association to start negotiating on issues such as pay and holidays after the Irish budget airline recognized a trade union for the first time in its 32-year history.

Europe's biggest budget airline was forced last year to recognize unions in order to avoid a Christmas strike, after it had to cancel 20,000 flights earlier in the year due to a shortage of standby pilots.

Ryanair thanked the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) for its constructive engagement and called on others around Europe to follow suit.

"Given Ryanair's previous hostility towards unions, today's agreement is an historic one," Brian Strutton, General Secretary of BALPA, said in a statement.

"While we were initially sceptical about Ryanair's sincerity in offering recognition to us and other unions, our conversations and meetings with them have shown that they are genuine in wanting a constructive trade union relationship."

BALPA said it would open an election for representatives among its members to lead negotiations with Ryanair on pay, holidays and the rostering of pilots.

Issues with pilot rostering triggered last year's mass flight cancellations.

Ryanair is negotiating with other unions across Europe, who have demanded to meet collectively with Ryanair, saying that individual talks were unsatisfactory. The airline has so far refused those demands.

"We now call on these unions to stop wasting time and act quickly to deliver 20 percent pay increases to our pilots in February, and conclude formal recognition agreements, which they are presently sitting on," Eddie Wilson, chief people officer at Ryanair, said in a statement.

Pilots at all Ryanair's UK bases have voted to accept Ryanair's proposed pay increase, with pilots at Stansted approving the package earlier this month. Those votes were separate to negotiations with BALPA.

BALPA's Strutton also said that he hoped Ryanair would be able to agree deals with other European unions soon.

"I am hopeful that this is (the) beginning of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between BALPA and Ryanair and I urge Ryanair to agree deals with pilot unions in other countries and with cabin crew unions," Strutton said.