Ryanair said this week that it would cut up to 900 jobs, blaming the late delivery of malfunctioning Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, rising fuel prices, lower fares and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
Union leaders are not convinced by these justifications for job losses. With the airline also projecting that passenger numbers will grow by 3% over the next 12 months, Ryanair can maintain its existing workforce and deal with any negative impact through staff turnover. In fact, the company is still running regular recruitment adverts. Unions believe that an opportunistic attempt to undermine collective bargaining could be the real reason for the announcement.
Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), said: “Ryanair says it is now a unionised company, but these threats of job cuts make us question whether they are genuine. It’s worrying that these cuts are being announced at the same time as UK- and Ireland-based pilots are balloting for strike action; last year, Ryanair made similar threats in response to strike action by pilots in Ireland. It looks like the airline is once again using threats to potentially undermine the right to strike.”
Last year Ryanair used union-avoiding tactics in Poland in response to the creation of a new cabin crew union. It forced all crew onto self-employment contracts that rendered them ineligible for many aspects of union representation and, on this basis, has refused to speak to the union.
Ryanair has recently moved to a new corporate structure with five different airlines now making up the group. The company says that the different airlines will have to compete against each other for planes and therefore jobs. Unions believe that hard-won improvements in pay and working conditions are now under threat as Ryanair attempts to intimidate its workers with employment uncertainty.
Only last week, ITF and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) wrote to Mr O’Leary calling for workers to be represented on the company’s board. In other companies this representation has been shown to protect labour standards and ensure any proposed job cuts are properly scrutinised and negotiated.
Livia Spera, ETF general secretary, said: “Ryanair has yet to accept that it can no longer manage unilaterally without being held to account by its workers and their unions. We have repeatedly offered to meet with the company and discuss its future, and this offer remains open if Ryanair wants to engage seriously on current and future labour relations issues.”