(Aug 16): Talks between Ryanair Holdings Plc and representatives of striking Irish pilots extended into the early hours Thursday, as the two sides sought to reach an agreement that could hold the key to resolving a wider European dispute over pay and contracts.
A third session of negotiations since Monday spanned more than 12 hours before being adjourned at 12:30 a.m., according to the Forsa union, which said the talks at Dublin airport are likely to resume later this week.
The discussions, mediated by labour relations veteran Kieran Mulvey, represent the best chance yet of halting walkouts that have weighed on Ryanair earnings and disrupted travel for thousands of people. While the strike spans Europe, a breakthrough in Ireland is seen as key to resolving the clash, since it was staff there who initiated a push for unionization and better employment terms.
Mulvey, a former chairman of the Irish Workplace Relations Commission, has asked the two sides to refrain from public comment, Forsa said in a statement. Ryanair declined to comment.
“We are watching what is happening in Ireland and we are listening,” Martin Lindgren, chairman of the Swedish Air Line Pilots Association, said by phone. “The demands are not that different at all. All Ryanair employees want the same thing — normal things that employees have.”
Walkouts on Hold
This week marked the first time the sides had met for 24 days, according to Forsa, which has said there are no further plans for strikes right now. In addition to Forsa officials, the talks included Ryanair management, pilots from the carrier who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association, and Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
The meetings followed the latest strike on Friday, which was the fifth by Ryanair’s Irish pilots and also involved cockpit crew from Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands. The walkout was the most damaging to date, causing the scrapping of more than 400 flights affecting upwards of 55,000 people, though Ryanair says the majority were rebooked on other services.
The unionization campaign was triggered when a rostering foul-up in Ireland left Ryanair short-staffed and forced the cancellation of 20,000 flights, giving workers leverage they’d never had in the carrier’s three-decade history. Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary says he won’t accept terms that jeopardize the low cost base that’s made his company so dominant in short-haul flying.