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Ryanair accuses competitors of inciting work stoppages ahead of “biggest ever strike”

The budget airline has called on the European Commission to investigate what it calls “anti-competitive behavior” as it braces for a mass walkout on Friday

A Ryanair plane in Weeze.
A Ryanair plane in Weeze. REUTERS

Ryanair has accused rival airline staff of “conspiring” to incite strike action as it braces for a mass work stoppage in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands this coming Friday.

Respecting EU law is not something over which workers should have to negotiate

EU Commissioner for Employment Marianne Thyssen

Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary claimed negotiations with cabin crew unions had been derailed by “unnecessary strikes and disruptive interference” that had been “promoted and coordinated by competitor airline employees, their unions and lobby groups.”

According to O’Leary, competitor airline pilots and cabin crew are meeting “unlawfully” across Europe to organize strike action.

The head of the Irish airline said it had submitted a complaint to the European competition over the “anti-competitive behavior” and called for an “immediate” investigation.

“This is an unlawful attempt to distort competition and customer choice, for the benefit of legacy airlines,” he said.

Ryanair unions have called Friday’s strike to protest the company’s policy of putting all its workers on Irish contracts rather than following local legislation.

EU Commissioner for Employment Marianne Thyssen has backed the workers’ demands. “Respecting EU law is not something over which workers should have to negotiate, nor is it something which can be done differently from country to country,” she said in a statement following a meeting with O’Leary on Wednesday.

This is an unlawful attempt to distort competition and customer choice, for the benefit of legacy airlines

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

“I made this very clear to Mr. O’Leary today. I am not against Ryanair or against the low-cost business model. But with great success also comes great responsibility.”

Around 1,800 Ryanair workers are set to go on strike in Spain on Friday, in what unions have warned will the “the biggest strike ever seen by Ryanair.” Ryanair has cancelled 150 flights as a result of the action.

Friday’s walkout follows an earlier pan-European strike that took place on July 25 and 26. Pilots also walked out in several countries on August 10, leading to the cancellation of nearly 400 flights. Union representatives say they have “not ruled out” holding a strike every month until Ryanair accepts their demands.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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