The dominance of the Ryanair board by one spiky maverick is leading the company and its profits into uncharted territory after 400 flights had to be cancelled on Friday due to entirely avoidable industrial action.
Staff in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are staging a 24-hour strike until 3pm on Saturday over pay and conditions, leaving 74,000 passengers affected in the busiest period of the year.
The company claimed it had informed customers as early as possible about cancellations but many said they had been given little notice and had to pay for extra nights in hotels and flight bookings with other airlines.
“Despite the regrettable and unjustified strike action taking place in five of our 37 markets on Friday, more than 2,000 Ryanair flights (85% of our schedule) will operate as normal today, carrying almost 400,000 customers across Europe,” a Ryanair spokeswoman bleated.
“We want to again apologise to customers affected by this unnecessary disruption and we ask the striking unions to continue negotiations instead of calling any more unjustified strikes.”
In December last year, Ryanair’s management agreed to recognise trade unions for pilots and cabin crew in an attempt to see off strikes planned during the lucrative Christmas period.
The airline’s chief executive, the combative Michael O’Leary, previously has stated that he would rather cut off his hands than agree to union recognition and continues to bully and pressurise staff instead of taking his directorship of the company seriously.
Even after progress had been made with unions, in countries including the UK and Italy, the airline has failed to follow through and seems intent on pursuing an ‘us and them’ culture, much to the delight of easyJet and other competitors.
Pilots and cabin crew seek better terms and conditions and already have hit Ryanair’s bottom line with first quarter profits down.
In July, cabin staff in Belgium, Italy, Spain and Portugal went on a two day strike. Ryanair’s response to strikes in Ireland was to issue redundancy notices to 300 Dublin staff while shifting some planes from Ireland to Poland in retaliation.
The airline also has been accused of unlawfully trying to deter workers from striking, which it has by sending messages saying their promotion prospects require a 100% work record.
Union chiefs representing those Ryanair staff striking today have stated that industrial action could have been avoided if management had agreed to a third-party mediator overseeing talks. Instead, Ryanair threatened Irish workers with redundancy.
The Ryanair board needs to take stock of the damage Michael O’Leary is doing to the value of their company.
Last June, O’Leary sold €72 million worth of shares but remains Ryanair’s third largest shareholder holding over 4.1% of the stock. The largest shareholder is HSBC Bank, which holds 8.65%, followed by financial services firm Fidelity Investments, which holds 5.87%.
With a demonstrable lack of experience in industrial relations, Ryanair needs to bolster its board and management to develop a more professional operation as, without the commitment of cabin crew and pilots, the airline will continue to underperform.