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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter.

NZALPA heeds IFALPA support request as European pilots unite in a summer of strikes

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) has heeded the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (IFALPA) call for support to both German pilot and flight engineer union, Vereeniging Cockpit, and Vereniging Nederlandse Verkeersvliegers (VNV, the Dutch Air Line Pilots’ Association) as they voted overwhelmingly to take strike action against major European budget airline Ryanair.

Coordinated pilot strikes across Europe recently saw a further 400, mainly German, flights cancelled by Ryanair. Although demands differed between countries, flight cancellations affected travellers in other key Ryanair centres Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as in the company’s home nation of Ireland.

These strikes joined similar action in July and are leading to the biggest strikes Europe has experienced for some time.

Ryanair operates around 2,000 flights per day in the European summer and August is often the most popular month for holidays across the continent.

NZALPA’s IFALPA Director, on behalf of the Board of Management sent a communique to the European unions to advise that NZALPA was “stand(ing) united with you in your action and wish you the best in reaching a fair settlement for your members.”

A related communique sent from NZALPA to VNV said that the local union had been “... Informed that Ryanair Netherlands pilots are in active bargaining with the airline management to obtain a Collective Labour Agreement. There has never been one to date.

“Regretfully, Ryanair management does not seem to be willing to reach an agreement at all, although the pilots’ demands are modest and are not entirely based on salary. Among other points, pilots are requesting that local law be applicable to Dutch-based pilots, paid sick leave, and an improved pension plan.

“With negotiations at a standstill, VNV, as well as many other European pilot unions, had no other option than to send out a referendum to its members. The ballots were counted at VNV Headquarters on 31 July 2018. 99.5% of pilots voted in favor of taking industrial action, which may include strike(s).

“The NZALPA Board of Management wish to convey to you our full support of your actions in achieving your aims. (Again, although) we are unable to directly assist with the assistance requested, please know we stand united with you in your action and wish you the best in reaching a fair settlement for your members,” the NZALPA communique concluded.

According to leading aviation publication Air Travel Weekly (ATW) the various pilot unions “coordinated to maximize (sic) pressure on the airline.” Demands from Vereeniging Cockpit have included a higher level of guaranteed pay (versus variable pay for extra flying), job security, and better medical insurance and pension contributions.

At the time, ATW reported, Ryanair management denied it suffered from a crew shortage and a “higher than usual number of pilot resignations, a claim that was rejected by many in the pilot community. Unions nonetheless saw a window of opportunity for their demands to be recognized (sic).”

Union representatives said they were prepared to sustain a long dispute and that further walkouts even at short notice will follow if management does not come up with new offers. In Germany, both pay and conditions are subject of negotiations, ATW reported.

Also quoted was Bernstein industry research analyst Daniel Roeska who said that “Antagonizing (sic) the workforce is never a good idea…threats of action to move capacity around the network could lead to [even] greater levels of cooperation between unions across Europe, as they will try to leverage their combined strength—a strategy that forced Ryanair to accept unionization (sic) in the first place in December.”

Meanwhile, as September Uplink was going to print international news agency Reuters reported that shares in Dutch national airline KLM’s parent company Air France-KLM had fallen sharply “in response to the hostile reception from unions to the company’s new boss (Canadian) Benjamin Smith, while the airline’s Dutch pilots threatened to strike over working conditions.”

Reuters reported that Smith, who will take up his post before the end of September, “will have to deal with labor (sic) troubles at Air France that have already cost the airline 335 million euros ($381.73 million) this year, forced the resignation of his predecessor, and seen the group’s shares slump 36 percent in 2018.”

French unions were also about to discuss another round of strike action for the season and the Dutch VNV said it would “…strike unless the airline’s management comes up with improved offers to ease their workload. “

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