Ryanair Recognizes Unions in Historic Shift to Avert Strike

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Germany's Cockpit union welcomed Ryanair's move but said it is up to the airline "to underscore the seriousness of its proposal" and called on the company to agree to talks as early as next week.

The about-turn by Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Leary, who once said "Hell would freeze over" before Ryanair unionized, reflects the intensity of the pressure pilot groups have put on the airline for recognition or face labor action during the busy holiday season.

Ryanair has said that it has agreed to change its longstanding policy and recognise pilot unions in a slew of countries across Europe, including the United Kingdom, to avoid widespread disruption for travellers over the crucial Christmas period.

However, with the threat of its first ever pilot strike hanging over its head, the airline has written to pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting them for talks.

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Ryanair said its offer applied to pilots' bodies in those countries, as well as Britain and Spain.

"Ryanair now calls on these pilot unions to call off the threatened industrial action on Wednesday (20 December) so that our customers can look forward to travelling home for Christmas without the threat or worry of pilot strikes hanging over them". The CEO had pledged higher pay and bonuses to keep flight-deck crews from bolting to rivals and also threatened them with retaliatory measures if they went on strike.

Italy's main pilots' union, Anpac, canceled its participation in a planned four-hour walkout scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Friday.

Ryanair may hire planes and draft in European crews to staff flights impacted by next week's strike.

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The carrier, which uses contract pilots on some flights, said it would not engage with pilots who also fly for competitor airlines.

The Irish Airline Pilots Association says it has received a letter from Ryanair and is now looking for a meeting between management and the union to clarify issues and make progress.

The Irish Times reports this morning that crew from the airline's European bases could be drafted in to cover the routes impacted.

"Ryanair is likely to be forced to engage in lengthy negotiations processes", they said.

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