Widespread strikes by low-cost airlines loom, says French union

Aviation unions are warning that airline staff could stage a widespread strike in the coming weeks as staff at low-cost airlines serving France air grievances over pay and working conditions.

Strikes and threats have already hit Volotea, EasyJet and Ryanair.

Ryanair began to see tensions on March 13 after the company’s management reportedly planned to fire two flight attendants for consuming a can of soft drink and a packet of crisps, worth £4, €30.

Damien Mourgues, delegate of the national union of hostesses and stewards, the National Union of Commercial Flight Crew-Force Ouvrière (SNPNC-FO), told Le Monde: “The hostesses and stewards are paid the minimum wage, and we do not receive any meal allowance.”

He explained that the unions were threatening with a “very big unlimited strike, with actions at the weekend and during holiday departures”, the Vueling union representative telling l’Humanité: “There will surely be waves of larger scale strike.

“I hope that our actions and our demands will go all the way: we only ask for recognition and dignity in our work.”

A Ryanair union representative, also called Damien, warned: “If Ryanair continues to turn a blind eye, we will resort to strike action this summer, coordinating with other European countries. We have already had discussions with Belgium and Italy.

A new Ryanair strike would follow an initial strike warning from March 13 to April 18, which led to a weekend of action by Belgian Ryanair cabin crew between April 22 and 24, after the unions have accused the airline of not investing funds under acceptable conditions. work conditions.

Ryanair personnel manager Darrell Hughes argued at the time that the CNE union representing striking staff was causing unnecessary disruption, saying it “should now work with Ryanair to offer negotiated solutions instead of s engage in this premature and unnecessary strike”.

Mr Morgues said that for a company that had “a €4 billion ‘war chest'”, “that’s not a very generous approach”.

At Volotea, the action began after management said it wanted to cut pilots’ salaries. Staff reacted by striking for two weekends.

Another SNPNC strike notice issued for Volotea staff that lasted from April 15 to 30 has now been extended to May 31.

SNPNC said it had held meetings with cabin crew and EasyJet HR teams, but has not yet released the results of those discussions.

Another notice relating to Vueling employees and calling for better pay and working conditions was due to run until May 9, but with 98% of staff in favor of action, the company has promised to offer pay rises €150 per month minimum, rather higher than €150 maximum.

Staff request

Staff and pilots are currently in a strong negotiating position as demand for their roles is high.

Before the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the industry would need an additional 500,000 pilots to meet demand. During the pandemic, companies stopped recruiting but now, with activity restarting, the industry is once again looking to increase employment sharply.

In 2022, Transavia has already recruited 500 new pilots on Air France salaries, and mainly hires pilots from other companies “who have already been trained”.

In addition to wages, working conditions are also on the agenda.

The unions have threatened to organize a coordinated strike across Ryanair, EasyJet and Volotea as a “nuclear weapon” which it will deploy “over the holidays”.

“The strike call has been suspended until mid-May,” said William Bourdon, SNPNC union official at EasyJet.

Industry recovery

It comes as the airline industry appears to be recovering strongly after the past two years, with low-cost carriers in particular reaping the benefits as passengers rush to make up for the lack of travel.

Transavia France said “the pace of ticket sales exceeds capacity”, although it has increased its capacity by 50% compared to 2019, with director Nicolas Hénin saying: “Prices for July and August are still comparable to those of 2019, before the crisis. , and even slightly lower for June.

Still, Air France said ‘strong trends for July and August’ will mean it will be forced to raise prices during the summer ‘peak’.

Even high fuel cost forecasts don’t seem to be dampening sales.

Ryanair is already in full swing for the summer season and offers more than 900 weekly flights to 120 destinations from its Dublin hub. Volotea is selling five million seats, 99% more than it sold in 2021, and even 54% more than its pre-pandemic business, in 2019.

EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren even said in mid-April: “We are confident that our plans will enable us to approach 2019 flight levels this summer, and emerge as one of the winners. of the post-Covid return.”

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