Budget airline Ryanair is set to recognise pilot unions for the first time in its history as it looks to avoid strikes over Christmas.
The airline has written to the pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting each of them to talks. It said on Friday that it will recognise these unions as long as they establish committees of Ryanair pilots to deal with Ryanair issues, as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere.
The carrier said it had decided to change its long-standing policy of not recognising unions to avoid any threat of disruption to its customers and flights over the Christmas period, as it called on pilot unions to cancel a planned strike on 20 December.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week.
"If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognise them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week.
"Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognised national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year."
Investec said that while this move should avoid industrial action in the short term, over the longer term inevitably unions will be recognised in other countries that Ryanair has operations in and for cabin crew and possibly other staff as well.
"Whereas negotiations between Ryanair and its Employee Representative Committees (were done on a base by base
method, negotiations with unions will now be undertaken on a country by country basis, with the likely pressure to increase
pay towards that of the highest base.
"Whether the unionisation process also results in employees working under local contracts rather than Irish remains unclear."