A war of words broke out between Ryanair and Balpa after the pilots’ union announced strike dates.
The no-frills carrier questioned the validity of the ballot for industrial action planned for four days – August 22-33 and September 2-4.
The dispute is separate and unconnected to the current row with British Airways.
Ryanair condemned the threatened strikes as being “ill-judged and ill-timed” just ahead of Brexit while urging the union to return to talks.
The strike dates were set after Balpa accused Ryanair of “refusing to deal with unions” over decades and not having “a number of standard agreements that any union would reasonably expect in any workplace”.
But the carrier claimed the walkout threat had the support of less than 30% of its pilots.
Balpa contended that the industrial action ballot saw 80% vote in favour of strike action on a 72% turnout.
The union’s claim covers “many issues” including pensions, loss of licence insurance, maternity benefits, allowances and “a fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure”.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “We have had no formal offer from Ryanair and it is imperative that we resolve this dispute urgently to avoid strike action.
“No pilot wants to spoil the public’s travel plans but at the moment it seems we have no choice.”
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Ryanair hit back by disclosing that less than half of its UK pilots are members of the union and of these, just 57% voted in favour of industrial action.
“This is less than 30% of Ryanair’s UK pilots,” the airline claimed. “It is notable that over 70% of Ryanair’s UK pilots are either not members of Balpa, or did not vote in Balpa’s ballot, or voted against industrial action.
“Balpa have no mandate to disrupt our customers holidays and flights, particularly at a time when UK pilots are facing job losses due to the Boeing Max delivery delays, and the threat of a no deal Brexit on 31 October.”
It pointed out that Ryanair’s UK pilots agreed a 20% salary increase last year, with senior captains earning up to £180,000 a year – more than competitor airline pilots at Norwegian or Jet2. Ryanair employs 1,250 UK-based pilots.
“We have written to Balpa asking them to return to talks, and we apologise sincerely to customers for any uncertainty that Balpa’s ballot may cause them,” the airline said.
“At this difficult time for UK pilots facing base cuts and closures, Balpa should be working with Ryanair to save UK pilot jobs, not endanger them through ill-timed and ill-judged disruption of our customers’ travel plans, just ten weeks before the threat of a no-deal Brexit.”