European pilot group says Ryanair must reverse base closures

FILE PHOTO: Ryanair logo is pictured ahead of a news conference by Ryanair union representatives in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Ryanair logo is pictured on the the jacket of a cabin crew member ahead of a news conference by Ryanair union representatives in Brussels, Belgium September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

October 12, 2018

By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) – A pan-European body representing Ryanair pilot unions on Friday described the Irish airline’s decision to close two bases and reduce its capacity this winter as a “declaration of war” on unions and said the move must be reversed to make progress.

Ryanair <RYA.I> has said it hopes to secure deals with several pilot unions in the coming months in an effort to bring a wave of industrial rest under control.

But the European Cockpit Association (ECA) said in a statement the decision by the airline to close bases in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and Bremen, Germany, while also reducing capacity in the German region of Niederrhein, threatened to “seriously exacerbate” tensions.

“Closing down a base and moving your employees to a different country is not compatible with social dialogue. We see it as a declaration of war, and totally contrary to all claims to be willing to negotiate,” the president of the Dutch pilots’ association VNV, Arthur van den Hudding, was quoted as saying in the ECA statement following a meeting of unions last week.

The head of Germany’s Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union, a key target for Ryanair management in its efforts to reduce industrial tensions, said his union was calling on Ryanair to change its “confrontational and counterproductive” approach.

“If Ryanair is serious about reaching agreements by Christmas, such behavior is very unhelpful,” VC President Martin Locher said in the statement. He described the Nov. 5 date for the closures as a “milestone to test management’s real intentions.”

Ryanair announced plans to cut its Irish fleet by six aircraft earlier this year but revoked the decision after pilots backed a deal with management.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)

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