DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair (RYA.I) cabin crew are to hold coordinated strikes in four European countries, a union official said on Wednesday, escalating industrial action at Europe’s largest low-cost carrier which dismissed their demands as “pointless.”
Cabin crew in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium are planning strikes and will announce dates for the action on Thursday once authorities in Italy give their approval, Antonio Escobar, an official with Spanish union SITCPLA said.
He added that other countries may join the action.
The cabin crew are joining Irish Ryanair pilots who on Tuesday announced a strike for July 12, saying Europe’s largest low-cost carrier had failed to improve conditions sufficiently after recognizing unions in December.
Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, averted widespread strikes before Christmas by deciding to recognize trade unions for the first time in its 32-year history. But it has since struggled to reach agreement on terms with several of them.
Cabin crew from across Europe published a list of 34 demands on Wednesday, including “a fair living wage”, improved sick pay and employment contracts in their own language based on local rather than Irish law.
The list of demands was drawn up by crew representing 80 percent of Ryanair’s 86 bases, the International Transport Workers Federation, which organized the event, said in a statement.
Cabin crew said at a media briefing they were forced to physically report to work when sick to provide written details of symptoms and struggled to claim sick pay as their terms and conditions often straddled the law of Ireland and their home country.
The cabin crew, who spoke on condition of anonymity saying they feared reprisals if they went public, said staff from several EU countries were forced to travel to Ireland to open bank accounts in order to receive pay.
A Ryanair spokesman disputed some of the claims and described the demands as “pointless” considering the attractiveness of the overall package offered to staff.
He said cabin crew received sick pay and a 400-euro annual uniform allowance and could earn up to 40,000 euros per year. Crew had attractive working hours and could not legally fly for more than an average of 18 hours per week, he said.
“Ryanair is already engaged in extensive negotiations with national cabin crew unions across Europe during which all of these, and other issues, are being negotiated and we have already concluded agreements in the UK and Italy,” the spokesman said.
Italian union Ultrasporti has said the agreement Ryanair secured in Italy is with a union that does not represent the majority of Ryanair cabin crew in the region.
Portuguese union SNPVAC, Spain’s SITCPLA and USO, Italy’s Ultrasporti and Belgium’s CNE/LBC in April released a joint threat to strike if their demands were not met by June 30.
Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Keith Weir and Kirsten Donovan