Ryanair's British pilot union to vote on possible August strike

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By Conor Humphries  with Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait to board a Ryanair flight at Gatwick Airport in London, Britain
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait to board a Ryanair flight at Gatwick Airport in London, Britain   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

Ryanair's British pilot union is to ballot members on possible strike action in coming weeks in a dispute over working conditions, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) announced on Wednesday.

The results of the ballot are due on August 7 and strike action by pilots in the airline's largest market could take place two weeks later, the union told members in a memo, which has been seen by Reuters.

The ballot is a setback for management at Europe's largest low-cost carrier, who have in recent months said they had largely resolved an industrial relations dispute with pilots and cabin crew.

Ryanair suffered a series of damaging strikes last year after the carrier bowed to pressure in late 2017 to recognise unions for the first time. But since then it has signed collective labour agreements with a number of pilot unions throughout Europe.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement that no progress had been made in talks on issues including pensions, maternity benefits and "a fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure."

"We have not been able to make any progress with Ryanair at all on any of our areas of concern," Strutton said.

In the memo, BALPA said its members in a consultative ballot had overwhelmingly supported the move to hold a vote on strike action.

It said it understood that pilot union colleagues in Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Germany had made "little, if any, meaningful progress" in talks with Ryanair.

Ryanair, which says it offers some of the best conditions for low-cost short-haul Boeing pilots in Europe, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs earlier on Wednesday said he hoped to sign collective labour agreements with Germany's Vereinigung Cockpit pilot union by the end of August, adding that he did not expect strikes anywhere in Europe.

On Tuesday, Ryanair said it had been forced to halve its growth plans for 2020 due to delays in the delivery of Boeing's grounded 737 MAX jet and planned to start talks with airports and unions about downsizing or closing some operations from November 2019.

(Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt)

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