UPDATE 1-Spanish court rules former Ryanair pilot was employee not contractor

(Adds Ryanair comment)

MADRID, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A former Ryanair pilot should have been considered an employee and not an independent contractor, a Spanish judge has said in the latest setback for the airline in its fight to avoid Europe-wide strikes over workers’ conditions.

Europe’s largest low-cost airline faces a 24-hour strike by cabin crews in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain on Sept. 28, over labour agreements. Unions aim to repeat the strikes once a month.

The Sept. 7 ruling by the Spanish judge in Tenerife can be appealed.

“We have asked our lawyers to appeal this sentence immediately,” Ryanair said in an email.

The pilot’s lawyer said he is preparing new lawsuits for other Ryanair pilots for allegedly violating Spanish labour and tax laws.

The Spanish pilots’ union Sepla filed a collective lawsuit in the High Court against the company over contracts in early August.

Under Spanish law, a contractor does not enjoy the same workers’ rights as an employee and the airline does not have to contribute to the worker’s social security payments. (Reporting by Robert Hetz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Louise Heavens)