Ryanair UK pilots’ strike to go ahead after High Court ruling

A strike by Ryanair’s UK pilots will go ahead this week after a ruling from the High Court in London was issued on Wednesday afternoon.

Europe’s biggest airline applied for an injunction to prevent a 48-hour stoppage beginning on 22 August from members of Balpa, the British pilots’ union, but lost its bid to block the walkout.

Some 80 per cent of Balpa members voted in favour of industrial action in an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

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Mrs Justice Lambert DBE rejected Ryanair’s various technical and legal arguments and agreed that Balpa’s industrial action ballot and procedures were lawful, and so the strike can proceed.

However, despite the injunction being denied, Ryanair has claimed that all flights to and from the UK will run as scheduled over the next two days.

It said in a statement: “Ryanair regrets the decision by less than 30 per cent of our highly paid UK pilots to vote for strikes on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 August.

“Thanks to the great work and volunteerism of the vast majority of our UK-based pilots, Ryanair now expects to run its full schedule of flights to/from our UK airports.”

The airline added that, although “significant disruptions” are not expected, it “cannot rule out some small flight delays and/or flight changes”.

All passengers travelling with Ryanair during the next two days have been advised to “arrive at their departure airport as normal and they can expect their scheduled Ryanair flight to depart on time”.

Balpa has responded to the legal victory by saying it is offering an olive branch to Ryanair for “constructive negotiations” to take place to avoid striking.

Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the union, said: “Ryanair was foolish to bring this into the High Court rather than the negotiating room. We offered to meet Ryanair management at Acas to negotiate a resolution, but instead they attempted a legal bludgeon. That’s backfired. 

“However, we are clear that we want to settle the dispute and bring about a change in Ryanair for the better. 

“Pilots in Ryanair are seeking the same kind of policies and agreements that exist in other airlines – our demands are not unreasonable. We want to address issues like pensions; loss of licence insurance; maternity benefits; allowances; and harmonise pay across the UK in a fair, transparent, and consistent structure.

“We hope that Ryanair will take up our offer of a way forward this evening so we can call off this action.”

The union added that it apologises to affected passengers “in the event that Ryanair rejects our overture and therefore the action over the next two days does go ahead”.

Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, said of the ruling: “The threat of more travel chaos over this busy bank holiday weekend will be a crushing blow for passengers who are likely to have spent weeks worrying about whether their holiday flights will take off.

“Ryanair now needs to take every possible step to minimise disruption by informing passengers likely to be affected and offering refunds or alternative transport as required by law in the event of cancellation – if necessary, on other airlines.”

The news follows Ryanair being granted an injunction earlier on Wednesday to stop Irish pilots from striking in the High Court in Dublin.

The Irish court said it would grant Europe’s biggest airline an injunction to prevent a 48-hour stoppage beginning on 22 August.

Justice McDonald said he would restrain the union “from directly or indirectly, organising, directing or endorsing their members to participate in a strike on 22 and 23 August 2019”.

Some 180 members of Irish pilots’ union Ialpa voted in favour of industrial action during the busy summer holiday period, but Ryanair sought an injunction against parent union Fórsa through the High Court based on a technicality.

Ryanair’s legal counsel told the High Court that Fórsa hadn’t allowed for the mediation process to be completed before announcing the strike, and claimed the walkout would be in breach of an agreement made between the airline and the union last year. 

The carrier said in a statement that it welcomed the decision and that it would “come as a huge relief to thousands of Irish passengers and their families during the last week of the school holidays”.

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