The Irish Times has reported on the most recent goings on at Ryanair. Key points from this article are claims that a group of pilots have written to Ryanair stating that their pay and conditions fall below industry standards, that pilots wish to be represented by one collective voice, and that Michael O’Leary would rather cut off his own hands than have to deal with a union.
For some time, we have questioned the model used by Ryanair when it comes to recruiting pilots. Many pilots are not direct employees of Ryanair, the preference being for pilots to be self-employed through their own limited company, set up through a further company. This model denies pilots the opportunity to accrue employment rights. Our members tell us that under this model, they have had to pay for pretty much everything to be able to fly for Ryanair, including security passes and uniform.
Following the faux pas over the summer in respect of pilot rostering, Ryanair has, on the face of it, been keen to recruit new pilots to the workforce, at what, it is claimed, are more favourable terms. Feedback from the recruitment process is that Ryanair are making all the right noises, but what does this mean in practice?
Simply, it means that not a great deal has seemingly changed. Our first comment for any would-be Ryanair pilot is that if the promises made are not in the contract, don’t rely on them. The only obligations the company has are what is contained in the contract. It is worrying that pilots across the industry can get into difficulty when, at recruitment, a company talks about opening a base in, say, 12-18 months’ time (which would be the applicant’s preferred base), and they take the job at a different base with a view to seeking to transfer to this new base in due course, only for the company to turn around and change their plans. This will not constitute a breach of contract by the employer, and the pilot is subsequently stuck where they are.
The new contract appears to reflect the model described above, but now the pilot is an employee who must pay for their food, licence validations, medical costs, ID card, car parking and uniform (although it is claimed that an allowance is payable to meet some of these costs). Additionally, the right is retained for Ryanair to transfer any pilot to any base without any relocation package.
Applicable terms and conditions vary from base to base, however, based on the documentation we have seen, we have reservations about the increased and improved pay structure, which, when read in conjunction with the contract may not be as good as it first appears.
We have members who fly for Ryanair and are happy to do so, given the work/life balance flying for the airline can offer. We also know that new recruits will likely sign the new contract without hesitation and hope for the best. In reality, that is what most of us do. If any of our members are looking to move to Ryanair, we would strongly advise you to take detailed advice from us on any contract offered to you. If any of your colleagues are heading to Ryanair and they are not IPA members, we would suggest that they are encouraged to join the IPA so that we can review the contract with them, and provide the security of having union support should they get into difficulty. Mr O’Leary may not like the unions, but in the UK you have a legal right to representation in certain matters, which cannot be denied.