Ryanair unions lift Christmas strike threat

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Unions representing Ryanair pilots in Ireland and Portugal on Sunday suspended plans to strike before Christmas, lifting the threat of industrial action at the low-cost giant after it agreed on Friday to recognise trade unions for the first time.

Ireland’s Impact trade union and Portugal’s SPAC announced the cancellation of 24-hour strikes due to take place on Wednesday after Ryanair agreed to recognise the unions as the representatives of pilots in the two countries.

Italy’s ANPAC on Friday also suspended plans to strike.

While the decision to recognise trade unions for the first time in Ryanair’s 32-year history has averted the threat of strikes, the move rattled investors and its shares fell almost 9 percent on Friday.

Impact said it would meet Ryanair management on Tuesday and “looked forward to establishing a positive relationship.”

Ryanair earlier said British union BALPA and Italian union ANPAC had agreed to meet with Ryanair in early January. It said it had offered to meet SPAC on Thursday.

“Let’s keep talking. Get people home quietly for Christmas,” Ryanair Chief Operations Officer Peter Bellew said in a statement on Saturday.

In addition to union recognition, pilot unions have been seeking an overhaul of the airline’s system of contracts and collective bargaining.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Mark Heinrich and David Evans