Ryanair UK pilots cancel this month's strikes

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair pilots based in the United Kingdom have canceled five days of strikes set for this month, as unions and the low-cost airline gear up for further talks.

FILE PHOTO: A Ryanair commercial passenger jet takes off in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Strikes set for September 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29 will not go ahead, Ryanair said, as it called on the pilots to resume discussions in the East Midlands or in Dublin next week.

The pilots, who are members of pilots union BALPA, announced the strikes earlier this month, after earlier walkouts caused little disruption.

Chief Executive Michael O’Leary on Thursday described the strikes as “complete failures”.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has accused Ryanair of threatening to remove pilots’ benefits should they take part in strike action.

The union said in a statement posted on its website on Friday that its representatives had agreed to suspend further strikes to pave the way for negotiations under the oversight of UK conciliation service ACAS.

“Despite a strong turnout for strike action and a high level of commitment among pilots in Ryanair, the pilot representatives took the decision to allow a breathing space in the hope that constructive negotiations could get underway,” it added.

On Thursday the union said it hoped to meet with Ryanair on Friday or the following Monday, but that it had not heard from the airline.

Widespread strikes over pay and conditions a year ago forced Ryanair to cancel hundreds of flights, hitting its profits in the busy summer months.

But a series of strikes in Britain, Spain and Portugal in recent weeks has caused minimal disruption. Ryanair has said only around half of the pilots operating from UK airports are members of BALPA.

Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Jan Harvey