Ryanair pilots agree to 20% pay cut in attempt to limit job losses

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Ryanair pilots have agreed to take a 20% pay cut as part of efforts to avoid up to 3,000 job cuts at Europe’s biggest budget airline.

The pilots’ union Balpa announced on Wednesday that 96% of its Ryanair members had voted to accept the temporary pay cut in order to “save jobs that were under threat” due to the collapse in demand for flights in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a terrible time for aviation and for employees in all airlines,” Brian Strutton, Balpa’s general secretary said. “It was our members’ mandate for us to save as many jobs as possible. In the circumstances this is the right thing to do even if it means accepting difficult temporary reductions in pay.”

The pilots agreed to the pay cut deal hours after Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, made public an ultimatum that a total of 3,000 job losses could only be avoided if all staff agreed to pay cuts.

The deal with Ryanair’s pilots saves 260 jobs that were at risk. Ryanair had said a total of 330 pilot jobs were at risk. Negotiations with cabin crew and other staff continue, lower paid cabin crew have been asked to sacrifice 5% of their pay.

Earlier on Wednesday, O’Leary had said: “We’ve already announced about 3,000 job losses but we’re engaged in extensive negotiations with our pilots, our cabin crew and we’re asking them to all take pay cuts as an alternative to job losses.

“We’re looking from 20% from the best-paid captains, 5% from the lowest-paid flight attendants and we think if we can negotiate those pay cuts by agreement, we can avoid most but not all job losses.”

“Pilots have agreed to accept a 20% pay reduction in order to save 260 of the jobs that were at risk, with most of the rest linked to the possible base closures which is still to be resolved. We will remain in negotiations with the airline about those jobs and aim to protect those too.”

The union said Ryanair had agreed that pay will be restored to 100% over the next four years.

Strutton added: “We do not relish accepting pay cuts and this is going to be tough for many of our pilot members. But we are at least pleased to have ensured that the overwhelming number of pilots whose jobs were at risk will continue to be employed.”

O’Leary, who is chief executive of Ryanair’s holding company, initially took a 50% cut to his pay in April and May, and has extended this for this financial year until the end of March 2021.

On Wednesday, Ryanair began a “big ramp-up” of its schedule to 1,000 fights a day.

Eddie Wilson, who is chief executive of the group’s main airline, said: “At Ryanair we are doing everything we can to return to flying, so we can reunite friends and family, allow people to return to work and begin to restart Europe’s tourism industry, upon which millions of jobs, especially for young people, now depend.”

Ryanair has refused a Welsh government request to postpone flights scheduled to arrive in Cardiff starting on Friday, due to concerns that passengers could bring the coronavirus with them into Wales.

A flight from Málaga is due to land at the airport on Friday morning, and another from Faro, Portugal, on Friday evening.

A Ryanair spokesman said: “We are operating normally on 3 and 4 July with hundreds of Welsh people travelling home from countries with lower ‘R rates’ than the UK.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We don’t believe these flights should be going ahead.” People in Wales have been asked to stay local, within five miles, as guidance.

On Tuesday, easyJet said it planned to make as many as one in three of its pilots redundant. The airline plans to cut up to 727 pilot jobs and up to 1,200 cabin crew posts across the UK.

EasyJet started consultations with unions in the UK on Tuesday after announcing last month that it would be making about 4,500 staff redundant across Europe. It also plans to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports.

On Wednesday, easyJet said it planned to reduce the number of aircraft and employees based in Berlin and had launched a consultation with unions.

“Although we will remain Berlin’s largest carrier, we have to adjust our schedule to reflect the demand following the pandemic and focus on profitable flying,” the chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said.