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Irish pilot union agrees to Ryanair talks ahead of planned strike

The union representing Ireland-based Ryanair pilots said on Sunday it had agreed to talk with the no-frills airline but warned that the meeting could be too late to avert a strike set for Wednesday.

The Irish airline on Friday offered to recognise unions for the first time after pilots in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal threatened walkouts, throwing Christmas travel plans into chaos.

The airline said Saturday it was prepared to meet representatives from Impact, to which the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) is affiliated, on Tuesday in a bid to avert the strike.

The union responded on Sunday that it would be “happy to do that”, but warned against premature hopes of success.

“We indicated to Ryanair that we were happy to meet them on Wednesday, but we would not be in a position to consider suspending the scheduled industrial action until we met them,” Impact spokesman Niall Shanahan told Today FM.

“They suggested a meeting on Tuesday evening, and again we are happy to do that, but similarly, we are not in a position to consider the stages of the industrial action until after we’ve met them because then we are just in a much better position to ensure the substance of the Ryanair offer.

“The earlier we can meet the better,” he added, saying the “devil was in the detail” of the deal.

The Dublin-based airline said Friday it would recognise the unions “as long as they establish committees of Ryanair pilots… as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines”.

The BALPA union on Saturday said it had accepted Ryanair’s offer to represent British-based pilots, but only if the TUC federation of British trade unions was allowed to attend future talks.

– Strikes called off –

Friday’s announcement led to Italian pilots’ union Anpac and Portuguese union SPAC calling off strike action due to take place next week.

The Portuguese pilots’ strike scheduled for Wednesday was suspended by SPAC owing to Ryanair’s decision to recognise the union “and its commitment to open negotiations with the aim of entering into a company agreement”, it said in a statement.

Pilots in Germany have voted to take industrial action during the Christmas period and German union Vereinigung Cockpit said the onus was now on Ryanair to “prove that this announcement is serious”.

In Spain, there are no strikes planned for pilots, but ground staff unions have not ruled out action on December 30.

Next week’s industrial action planned for Ireland was backed by 94 percent of pilots directly employed by Ryanair in the eurozone member.

However, a majority of pilots used by the airline in Ireland are not directly employed by the company.

Ryanair, Europe’s second-largest airline by passenger numbers, has been forced to cancel 20,000 flights through to March because of pilot scheduling problems stretching back to September.

Despite the difficulties, Ryanair still expects to deliver annual profit after tax of 1.40 billion-1.45 billion euros ($1.65 billion-1.71 billion).