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STRIKING pilots grounded one in six Ryanair flights yesterday as they started a 24-hour stoppage in five countries at the peak holiday season.
The walkout involved staff at the budget airline in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, leading to the cancellation of at least 400 flights.
Ryanair apologised to the 50,000 passengers whose flights were affected, branding the industrial action “unnecessary.”
A spokeswoman said: “Despite the regrettable and unjustified strike action taking place in five of our 37 markets, more than 2,000 Ryanair flights — 85 per cent of our schedule — will operate as normal, carrying almost 400,000 customers across Europe.”
The airline managed to avert strike action in December after agreeing to recognise trade unions, including Ireland’s newest union Forsa, for the first time in its 30-year history.
But since then unions have accused Ryanair of failing to engage with them in order to resolve the dispute over pay and conditions leading to yesterday’s strike.
The International Transport Federation (ITF) has warned that bosses face legal action after allegedly breaching labour laws by trying to deter workers from taking lawful industrial action.
Last month Ryanair issued 300 redundancy notices to Dublin-based staff in response to the strike action, shifting some of its flights to Poland.
And unions accused Ryanair of writing to Spanish workers threatening to withdraw monthly productivity bonuses from those who joined the walkout.
ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said: “Unions in countries directly affected by all the latest actions against Ryanair workers are pursuing a mixture of legal claims and investigations with the appropriate government agencies.
“They are having to claim once again that Ryanair are infringing their members’ fundamental rights in breach of labour laws in their country.”
The dispute represents a major challenge for the firm’s low-cost business model with the dispute partly to blame for a drop in Ryanair’s profits. While it recorded a 7 per cent rise in passenger numbers, after-tax profits dropped by 20 per cent in the first quarter.
Bosses have threatened redundancies in a bid to appease the markets, but investors seem uneasy, with company shares losing a fifth of their value in the last year, while budget rival Easyjet’s rose by a fifth over the same period.
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