Ryanair's Irish pilots agree to talks as strike looms

FILE PHOTO: A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 plane takes off at the Riga International Airport, Latvia March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair's RYA.I directly employed pilots in Ireland agreed to attend mediated talks starting on Wednesday to avert a strike their trade union said would go ahead next week if the airline does not properly address a pay claim.

Europe’s largest budget airline suffered a number of strikes a year ago after a rocky start to its move to recognize unions for the first time, and is under pressure again with pilots in its home market threatening to join cabin crew in Portugal and pilots in Britain on the picket line this month.

Irish pilots who are members of the Forsa/IALPA trade union voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action on Friday after accusing Ryanair of stalling on talks since pay demands were submitted in late March.

About a quarter of Ryanair’s 350 pilots in Ireland staged a series of one-day strikes this time last year before concerns on transfers and promotions were settled. The talks on Wednesday will be overseen by the same mediator who brokered that deal.

“A substantive and meaningful counter-proposal from Ryanair management, which properly addresses all areas of the union’s claim, would need to be tabled tomorrow to prevent strike action next week,” Forsa/IALPA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Members of Ryanair’s British pilots union will stage the first of two multi-day strikes on Aug. 22, a day after Portuguese cabin crew are due to begin five days of action. Pilots in Spain are also considering a walk out.

Ryanair managed to quell last year’s disputes by reaching deals with many unions in Europe on pay and allowances, but it has yet to move beyond recognition agreements with others and further angered staff by informing them two weeks ago that it had 900 more pilots and crew than it needed.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Potter