October 1st 2017
1. REVIEW OF STEPS TAKEN
2. CURRENT STATUS
3. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
4. THE NEXT STEPS
5. CONSIDERA TIONS
6. ERC SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS
1. REVIEW OF STEPS TAKEN
1.1 On September 20th a joint letter (ERC LETTER) was sent to management from some 20 bases outlining the pilot body’s requested change of structure for future negotiations between Ryanair management and its pilots. As more pilot bases joined in signing, updated letters were sent out the following mornings culminating with some 56 bases signing. A deadline of Friday morning September 22th 10.00z was set for management to respond to this letter. No reply was received.
1.2 A second letter from the joint ERCs of 60 bases was sent on Wednesday September 28th stating that the ERCs would from then on only communicate with management through a joint email address (email@example.com) in order to oppose the long standing strategy of Divide & Conquer that Ryanair has applied in its dealing with pilots. A set of demands were outlined as a prerequisite to initiate talks with management to address the situation caused by their self- admitted mistakes regarding the pilot quotas. Management has not acknowledged either of these letters. Individual emails were however sent to the majority of Ryanair ERCs Thursday evening by Diarmuid Rogers containing a letter signed by Eddie Wilson inviting individual ERCs to initiate talks with management.
2. CURRENT STATUS
2.1 Following the initial communication with management with the 2 letters the time has come for the pilot body to make some decisions that will shape the future of its fight for better terms of employment. Some useful info:
• 4 bases (STN, DUB, FRA, SXF) have been informed by management that they are receiving new/improved allowances for both employees and contractors. The values are 10.000€ for Captains and 5000€ for First Officers. It is unclear whether these values are in addition to current allowances or adjustments to the same.
• NO BASE HAS AGREED TO ANY DEAL WITH MANAGEMENT, THESE ALLOWANCES ARE NOT OPTIONAL AND WERE NOT REQUESTED BY OR SIGNED OFF BY THE PILOTS AT THESE BASES.
• STN is currently in the process of electing new ERCs as the previous representatives have been challenged in their roles by a large group of STN pilots.
• Several UK bases are reaching out to BALPA, with meetings scheduled for Monday the 2nd in STN and Thursday the 5th for EMA & EMT.
• DUB ERC has hosted meetings with the pilot body where a unanimous decision was made to approach the National Pilots Association IALPA to discuss the options of cooperation. 2 meetings with the pilots and IALPA representatives are scheduled for Monday October 2nd.
• National Pilots Associations in Germany, Italy Spain, Portugal are seeing a large influx of new members. High ratios of affiliation are expected in these and other countries.
2.2 There have been calls for immediate action amongst the Ryanair pilots as well as from external sources, including but not limited to: spontaneous strike action, work to rule and network wide mass sickness reports. There are reports from the network that pilots are considering work to rule on their own initiative; unfortunately this is a very inefficient and self harming method of resistance. By opting for a work to rule type of operation on an individual basis, the pilot exposes himself tremendously to law suits by Ryanair. Further, should management choose to single out an individual to make an example of him/her by proceeding with a disciplinary procedure (which could extend to dismissal), other pilots may get scared into silence and momentum in this movement could become lost.
3. WHERE ARE WE GOING?
3.1 The Ryanair pilots are a diverse group of professionals with very different aspirations in their lives and careers. When asked about what they’d like changed in regard of their employments, requests will range from quantifiable items such as free/discounted water at work, 20-100% pay increases, hotels paid & arranged during recurrent training to more abstract demands such as more respect from management and consideration given during sickness. It is easy to focus on the minor changes to ones employment that could make an immediate impact. But those pilots in Ryanair that have been around long enough to see Europe’s economies cycle from booms to recessions know that any single perk or right in a Ryanair contract isn’t worth the ink it’s written with. Ryanair management have a tradition of removing benefits and altering clauses in contracts at their behest. And be sure that any perks will be offered to some, and not to others, with major differences between contractors and employees. We see this in the offers already made to just four bases out of more than eighty
3.2 In the past, very lucrative contracts have existed where pilots themselves were responsible for their personal taxation, and some very creative schemes were employed to reduce ones liability as much as possible. These were not available to all pilots. Such contracts were invariably very common among senior captains around Europe, with great influence in their bases. These contracts were very rewarding for the individual and thus the will to get National Pilots Association support in the airline was near non-existent. With increased scrutiny and oversight by the Irish Revenue, these contracts are now very rare and the motivation for many pilots to maintain a status quo vis-a- vis the company has all but disappeared.
3.3 Based on surveys made in several bases and from feedback from the ERCs from Ryanair’s bases, most pilots now agree that the pilot body needs to seek National Pilots Association support in order to replace the current model employed by Ryanair in its dealing with its pilots. This is a good thing. Experience shows that “negotiating” individual base by base offers pilots no leverage to challenge claims and proposals by management. It’s this strategy by management that have led to Pilot Terms & Conditions in Ryanair being kept at a virtual standstill or slight reduction during the past 10 years while inflation is up some 25%. Meanwhile, pilots at other airlines have recovered some of the sacrifices they made in terms of T&Cs and increases in productivity following the financial crisis.
3.4 Some might ask “What about the ERCs?”. It’s important to remember how the ERC (Employee Representative Council) system works. According to Irish law, a system for collective bargaining needs to be in place at Ryanair. As opposed to the law in many other EU countries, the company has no legal obligation to recognise any National Pilots Association as negotiating partner, regardless of level of membership among the workforce. Equally, there is no requirement in the law for workers to accept the negotiating system imposed by the company. The ERC system was created by Ryanair, where 1 or more pilots from each base “represents” the employees in that base (contractors are not employees and are therefore excluded and not represented in the ERC system) is an imposed manner of collective bargaining. However, there is no provision in Irish law to require Ryanair to engage in MEANINGFUL collective bargaining. In reality, the ERC system is a perfect manner to allow a multi-national airline with virtually limitless access to Lawyers, Negotiators and Advisors to go up against a single Airline Pilot representative in “negotiations” over the T&Cs for an entire body of professionals. The ERC representatives have no negotiating training or experience and no guarantee of immunity from the company regarding their actions in these negotiations, ensuring the representative “negotiates” with hands tied by fear of losing their job. In many bases the ERC representatives have not been elected amongst their peers, but rather appointed by necessity as Ryanair needs to prove that the ERC system is in place and working. This practice needs to come to an end immediately.
3.5 Let’s be clear: the Pilots Association route is unexplored in Ryanair. But with a majority of pilots now inclined to exploring the option, a solid strategy is needed. The benefits of joining a union and the tools it provides have been addressed elsewhere. ECA (European Cockpit Association) has recommended pilots to join their associated National Pilots Association following the recent ruling in the European Court of Justice. But can we expect Pilots Associations from 20+ countries to interact seamlessly, always with the Ryanair pilots’ best interest in mind? Probably not. Therefore it is imperative that a group of current Ryanair pilots operate as a Central Committee, maintaining communication lines open with all Pilots Associations in the network. The Central Committee is already in place, with Ryanair pilot representatives from each region from the network including STN and DUB. These pilots will initially have to remain anonymous for their own security. This is a less than ideal way of operating, but one that is necessary until such time that guarantees of immunity for representatives can be obtained from Ryanair management. This group will communicate directly with the current ERCs and with management through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address that we presented to Ryanair in ERC LETTER 3.0. The Central Committee is responsible for the drafting of the 2 letters already sent to management.
3.6 Further ahead, when the time is right, an elected council of pilots will speak for their colleagues in a proper democratic representation system, a pan European ERC (EERC)
3.7 The goal has to be very clear:
• We need structural change to the way Ryanair Pilots are employed and dealt with by the airline.
• We need professional representation and advice.
• We need legal tools to leverage our demands to Ryanair in order to level the playing field (i.e. Work to Rule, White Strike, General Strike)
3.8 All these things are available through the ECA affiliated National Pilots Associations. Any changes to our T&Cs will have to be specified later as these will be a consequence of the structural change that we seek, not the other way around.
4. THE NEXT STEPS
4.1 The Central Committee is now outlining the immediate strategy for moving forward, and this strategy will be made public as soon as possible.
• Initially, an email response to Eddie Wilson’s (EW) letter has been prepared. The idea is for all ERCs to send this to EW from their EFB emails in order to counter Michael O’Leary’s statements that the letters are not representing the pilots’ will. Please cc email@example.com when you send the message to the company.
• The central committee asks all ERCs to assist in ensuring the maximum possible National Pilots Association affiliation in their respective bases.
• ERCs are further asked to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating the number of pilots in their respective base, in order for the central committee to monitor affiliation in each region in cooperation with the National Pilots Associations.
• Ryanair Management are very likely to begin reaching out to individual bases with offers of temporary contractual improvements and/or threats. It is absolutely necessary that all such offers are rejected and reported to email@example.com. Remember why we started this journey in the first place: Unity across the network, local contracts to all pilots who wishes to have them and conditions on par with the competition.
• Any management outreach to individual bases should be reported to the Central Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Keep talking amongst the ERCs. Share experiences, concerns and hopes. You represent the pilots in your base and it’s extremely important that you keep your lines of communication open.
• The current employment structure of pilots in Ryanair has evolved during decades. It has worked very well for Ryanair until now. So far the pilots have been divided by contracts, countries and have had no functional inter-communication.
• To overthrow this structure will require immense force of will, stamina and commitment from every pilot. It will require hours upon hours of volunteer work from many pilots.
• It is entirely possible that things will get worse before they get any better.
• Expect management to fight any change by all means available to them. There will be
casualties. That’s the type of beast we are dealing with.
• Ryanair will, and have already begun to threaten to close bases if National Pilots
Association recognition becomes a factor. However, with several countries moving towards recognition simultaneously these threats are close to impossible to enact while maintaining the business model.
• Make sure pilots are aware that this is not a quick fix, but one that will take time. It will however ensure a more prosperous future for all pilots in Ryanair, and by extension all pilots in Europe.
• Be part of the change, don’t expect others to do it for you. It will not come free.
6. ERC SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 ERCs may expect to be called to Dublin, or expect management to visit their base, for individual meetings. Recommended practices for such a meeting are:
• Be polite.
• Listen. Talk as little as possible.
• Do not negotiate anything
• Don’t give any personal opinions or share opinions of the pilots in your base
• If a comment is requested of you, say that you will discuss the details from the meeting with your pilots.
6.2 Let us make this, the autumn of 2017, the beginning of the end of the race to the bottom for our profession. Let us show that Unity isn’t just an empty word that can be bought off by management for a temporary improvement to our contracts. Let us make sure that all pilots flying Ryanair aircraft are offered a permanent, local contract with modern and reasonable terms conditions.
To paraphrase Churchill:
Let us make sure future colleagues look back and say “This was their finest hour.”
The Central Committee of Ryanair Pilots.