August 2, 2018 / 3:44 PM / 13 days ago

Ryanair Irish pilots to join widening strike on Aug. 10

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair’s directly-employed pilots in Ireland will join colleagues in Sweden and Belgium on strike in an escalating day of action on Aug. 10, the fifth one-day walkout in the airline’s home market.

Ryanair has suffered strikes in some of its other main markets such as Spain and Portugal as it struggles to reach collective labor agreements across Europe, and expects to face action in Germany and the Netherlands as well on Aug. 10.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, has responded by threatening to move jobs away from any bases affected by the stoppages, beginning with Dublin where it cut its winter fleet by 20 percent and put over 300 employees on preliminary notice.

“The airline’s escalation of the dispute last Wednesday – when it threatened to sack 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew, or transfer them to Poland – led to a predictable hardening of resolve among its staff,” Ireland’s Forsa/IALPA trade union said in a statement.

The union said it was willing to explore the option of a third-party facilitating talks but Ryanair said its offer to meet the union one-on-one on Tuesday to try and solve their differences was pointless after another strike was called.

“This fifth strike notice by FORSA is irresponsible, unwarranted and is disrupting customers and is a way of damaging Ryanair’s business,” Ryanair Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs said in a statement.

Around a quarter of Ryanair’s 350 pilots based in Ireland have taken part in the series of strikes so far, with the fourth scheduled for Friday.

Ryanair canceled around 20 of Friday’s 300 Irish flights as a result, mainly on busy routes to and from Ireland and Britain, and has said impacted passengers have either been put on another flight or refunded.

It said on Thursday that it would contact another 3,500 passengers to inform them of 20 further cancellations on Aug. 10.

Ryanair, which operates from 86 bases in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, decided to recognize unions for the first time in its 32-year history last December to avert widespread strikes before Christmas.

Its shares fell further on Thursday and were down 3.6 percent at 13.02 euros by 1525 GMT, their lowest level since November 2016 and 8 percent below the level hit in December when Ryanair shocked the markets by recognizing unions.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey, David Evans and Kirsten Donovan

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