The UK’s pilots union has been given official recognition status by Ryanair for the first time in the airline’s 32-year history.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) said it had signed a “historic” voluntary trade union recognition agreement after the no-frills carrier signalled last month that it was willing to talk to pilot unions across Europe amid a string of disputes.
Ryanair was seen as wanting to limit disruption following a damaging blunder over rotas which led to its decision in the autumn to cancel flights affecting almost 700,000 customers.
The climbdown over its 32-year refusal to recognise unions led to a planned pre-Christmas strike by Irish-based pilots being abandoned.
Balpa said Ryanair’s decision meant it would be representing all its 600 directly-employed pilots based in the UK.
Its general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “Given Ryanair’s previous hostility towards unions, today’s agreement is an historic one.
“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 will be opening our election for five Ryanair Company Council representatives to be chosen from amongst the Balpa members employed by Ryanair.
“These reps will lead future negotiations on issues such as pay, hours, rostering and holidays on behalf of all our Ryanair members.
“We will also be opening an election for an advisory group for Ryanair contractor pilots who are not employed directly by the company.
“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.”
Chief people officer at Ryanair, Eddie Wilson, said: “This agreement validates the decision of Ryanair’s Board in December to recognise unions, and the fact that we have delivered pay rises of up to 20% and union recognition for our pilots in our largest market, shows how serious Ryanair is about working constructively with unions that are willing to work constructively with us.
“This rapid progress in the UK is in marked contrast to some other EU countries where we are still waiting for a response to our recognition proposals and where some unions have failed to put these substantial pay increases to our pilots.
“We now call on these unions to stop wasting time and act quickly to deliver 20% pay increases to our pilots in February, and conclude formal recognition agreements, which they are presently sitting on.
“Ryanair will not allow these unions to delay pay increases to our pilots.
“Today’s agreement between Ryanair and Balpa shows that Ryanair can work with unions that wish to work with us to promote the interests of both our pilots and our customers.”