Balpa gauges appetite for challenging Ryanair pilot’s employment status

Ryanair pilots are being asked if they would support industrial action as legal action is being considered to challenge their employment status.

Pilots’ union Balpa is assessing the level of support among the Irish carrier’s pilots to establish their legal status as contract workers or direct employees of Ryanair.

The move comes after Ryanair’s pilot rota crisis which forced it to cancel thousands of flights over the winter and prompted the airline’s chief executive Michael O’Leary to laucn an extraordinary public attack on its pilots.

He later apologised and Ryanair was reported to be offering improve terms and conditions to the many pilots who have the airline to join rivals such as Norwegian.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, told the Financial Times: “In response to calls from our pilots, we are currently looking at Ryanair’s contractor employment model and whether there’s anything that can be done about it.

“We are looking at whether it can be challenged in a similar way that Uber drivers challenged their status.

“Many pilots who fly for Ryanair are not in fact employed by them but are agency workers, supplied through several different third, or even fourth-party companies.”

The consultation is due to on November 6 and Balpa is asking pilots if they would be prepared to support industrial action.

Strutton added:  “The pilot workforce in Ryanair are in revolt. The company doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. They’ve tried throwing money at it and that hasn’t worked.”

Meanwhile pilots in Europe have started a crowdfunding campaign that will help them achieve collective representation in negotiating terms of employment.

The #PilotUnity campaign on GoFundMe was prompted directly by the Ryanair crisis and is expected to attract wide attention and donations from pilots, aviation professionals and keen European fliers.

The organisers said: “It is now clear that there is a new generation of pilots who will not be silenced, denied their fundamental right to freedom of association, or discouraged from organising collective negotiations.

“These groups of pilots want to choose their own representatives, to stand up and speak on their behalf, without fear of punishment or even worse – losing their job.”

The fund will be administered by the European Cockpit Association (ECA) on behalf of the pilot community to provide financial security to pilot leaders.

Captain Dirk Polloczek, ECA President, said: “We’ve got your back. This is all we want to say with this fund to the pilots who may be stifled by fear of reprisals and worry that their actions to organise the pilot community will get them fired.

“They need to know that the pilot community in Europe and beyond is united and determined to go in one direction. Through this crowdfund, the professional body of European pilots will provide the necessary support to allow the pilot leaders to focus on their core tasks of organising and negotiating.

ECA secretary general Philip von Schöppenthau said: “The need for this fund is a big warning sign that things are going seriously wrong in European aviation – because not every airline respects the principles of social dialogue.

“Instead they have their crews spread across Europe on a variety of atypical and precarious contracts, denying them effective access to genuine representation and genuine negotiations with management.

“We have seen examples of pilot representatives who dared to speak up were singled out, disciplined or fired. Whatever comes through the fund will serve as a safety net for pilot representatives that may end up in a similar situation.”

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