VIENNA (Reuters) - Faced with the prospect of widening strikes by crews in Europe, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary on Tuesday threatened to move more jobs to Poland if walk-outs hurt its business.
Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers pledged in December to recognize unions for the first time but it has struggled to reach collective labor agreements with some.
Its pilots in Germany voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of striking, adding to Ryanair’s recent labor woes after strikes last week by Dublin-based pilots and stoppages by cabin crew in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium.
Pilots in the airline’s smaller market of the Netherlands added to the pressure on Tuesday by backing industrial action in a vote it said was a necessary “wake up call” in talks with the union there.
Ryanair, which operates from 86 bases in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, has already said it plans to move crew and planes from Dublin, saying strikes there are harming bookings.
O’Leary on Tuesday said he was prepared to cut jobs “in any market” if necessary.
“We are the ultimate opportunistic airline,” O’Leary told a news conference at its Austrian unit Laudamotion’s offices.
“We have today - in Ryanair - 20 markets that need more aircraft. We’re short of aircraft in almost every market in which we operate because of the demand for our prices, our services,” he said, adding those included Poland, which is home to its Ryanair Sun unit.
“If some market is being damaged as the Irish market has been damaged in recent months by these activities, the Polish market is growing hugely strongly for us, the Ryanair Sun is very full, profitable, we need more aircraft in the Polish market - move aircraft to Poland.”
Pilots are demanding more transparent systems for promotions and transfers to reduce what they say is excessive management discretion over their careers, while cabin crew want local contracts and better conditions.
“As long as there’s common sense on their side then we’ll reach agreements,” O’Leary said, speaking of unions and pilots in general.
“If we have people who just want to have strikes for the sake of having strikes then they can have strikes and they’ll find themselves (with) jobs getting moved and aircraft getting moved.”
O’Leary also said he wanted to grow Laudamotion and Ryanair Sun more quickly, which would require additional planes and crew - a challenge in today’s environment. If an airline collapsed, however, that would make crew and planes more readily available.
Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Alexandra Hudson