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First Ryanair strike sees delays, but no cancellations in Germany

Passengers travelling with Ryanair in Germany on Friday saw little disruption from a short strike called by a pilots' union, with the no-frills airline praising crew for "largely ignoring" the unprecedented walkout.

First Ryanair strike sees delays, but no cancellations in Germany
Ryanair passengers at Frankfurt Airport on Friday. Photo: DPA.

Germany's powerful Cockpit union (VC) had asked Ryanair pilots to walk off the job from 5-9am (0400-0800 GMT) in a battle for recognition from the Irish carrier whose workers have been calling for better pay and conditions across Europe.

But the impact of the first-ever strike action by Ryanair pilots in the company's 32-year history was limited, causing just some delays and no cancellations.

Ryanair said nine of the 36 flights scheduled to depart within the strike window were delayed by the actions of “a small number of pilots”.

“We are grateful to all of our Ryanair pilots for putting our customers first and largely ignoring this VC strike,” it said in a statement.

“We apologize sincerely to our customers for any inconvenience suffered as a result of this unjustified and unnecessary strike,” it added.

At Germany's busiest travel hub, Frankfurt airport, all six scheduled Ryanair flights left as planned, according to DPA news agency.

Most flights left as planned at Berlin-Schönefeld airport as well, where seven departures were on the board. The 6:40 am flight to Italy's Bergamo however was delayed by five hours.

At the Cologne/Bonn airport in western Germany, passengers for a Ryanair flight to Copenhagen were told to expect a 10-hour delay.

The Cockpit union nevertheless said it was satisfied with the response to its strike call, which had affected one in four Ryanair flights and forced the company to scramble to bring in pilots from abroad.

“The goal today was not to cause as much flight chaos as possible. Ultimately, people need to make it to their destinations this close to Christmas,” union president Ilja Schulz told public broadcaster ZDF.

“The goal was simply to show Ryanair that the pilots we called on to strike are willing to fight for better working conditions now.”

Historic U-turn

Ryanair last week took the unprecedented step of offering to finally recognize unions after crew in Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal threatened walkouts in long-running rows over pay and conditions.

The move initially prompted unions to suspend their strike plans, averting the threat of major upheaval over the busy holiday period.

But Cockpit on Thursday decided to launch a “warning strike” after all after a first round of talks with Ryanair broke down this week.

READ ALSO: German pilots' union pushes through first-ever Ryanair strike Friday

The union said the discussions were cancelled after the carrier objected to two of the five union members present.

It accused Ryanair of playing for time to avoid travel mayhem over the Christmas and New Year period and of trying to dictate the conditions for the talks.

But the airline hit back, saying it would not negotiate with non-Ryanair pilots.

The Dublin-based budget airline was however able to stave off year-end flight chaos on home soil after clinching a deal with Ireland's Impact union on Thursday.

The union there said the danger of industrial action had “receded for the present” after Ryanair agreed to formally recognize Impact as the representative for the airline's pilots.

In Italy, the union Anpac said it planned to meet with Ryanair representatives in Rome in January.

Ryanair's decision to move towards trade union recognition marks a historic turning point, given that pugnacious boss Michael O'Leary – in charge since 1994 – had vehemently opposed any union representation for staff.

But he came under increasing pressure after the airline was forced to cancel 20,000 flights through to March because of botched holiday scheduling.

The fiasco triggered pilots' demands for better working conditions and representation, with some departing for other carriers.

Ryanair, Europe's second-largest airline by passenger numbers, has set itself the goal of transporting 200 million passengers annually by 2024.

Despite the recent troubles, it still expects to deliver annual profits after tax of €1.40 billion-€1.45 billion ($1.65 billion-1.71 billion).

STRIKES

French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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