Ryanair cabin crew starts strike that could impact over 73,000 passengers a day
Unions urge Irish company new collective agreement and to obey Spanish legislation
Two unions – USO and Sitcpla – have called for Ryanair's cabin crew in Spain to go on strike for six days over two weekends: June 24-26 and June 30-July 2. The first days of the strike coincide with a long-weekend in Catalonia, as June 24 is a bank holiday.
The Irish company is the airline that moves more passengers in Spain, and according to estimations by the Spanish government, the strike can affect around 440,000 people. This is an average of 73,200 individuals in Spain every day.
In a statement, released on June 13, the unions said that Ryanair employees continue to be treated like "third-class workers" and called on the company to comply with "basic labor rights and court rulings."
They called on the low-cost airline to sit down to negotiate "a collective agreement and decent working conditions for all staff."
Minimum services, fixed by the Spanish executive, range from 36% to 80% depending on the distance and the alternative transportation options. Unions, however, consider these percentages to be "abusive" and "violate the right to strike."
On the first day, unions denounced a "boycott" against workers' right to strike as Ryanair had called all workers to be on standby or to work. In the Barcelona-El Prat Terminal 2, the one the low-cost airline operates from, authorities did not register a single flight cancellation.
In Girona's airport, the company has, so far, only canceled one flight on Friday morning.
For the six days, Ryanair has 2,649 flights scheduled, which represent around 500,000 seats offered in several airports in the country. Barcelona-El Prat airport, and the one in Madrid, are the ones with the largest volume during the first weekends of summer.
However, both unions, have sent an email with acknowledgment of receipt to the company warning that minimum services. They claim they have received a flight list with 100% of the flights scheduled during a normal day.
"Ryanair is sending us an illegal order that goes against the minimum services granted by the Spanish transports ministry, which is already abusive," Lidia Arasanz, Ryanair’s USO secretary-general, said.
The strike does not only affect Ryanair’s Spanish cabin crew but also several other European countries. During the first weekend, workers in Belgium, Portugal, France, and Italy will also halt operations.
This will coincide with the lack of workers in airports such as London’s Gatwick or Amsterdam’s Schiphol, which have pushed for airlines and handling companies to relocate some Barcelona-El Prat workers temporarily.
While in Belgium and Portugal, the strike will also go from June 24 to 26, in France it will be from Saturday to Sunday, while in Italy it will only be on Saturday 25.
According to union sources, Ryanair has canceled all flights operated in Belgium as no minimum services were set.
Consumer rights organization Facua reminded passengers who may be affected by the strike that they are entitled to compensation of at least €250 and a refund for the flight plus expenses in the event of a cancelation.
European regulations, the statement said, state that "passengers will receive compensation of €250 for flights of up to 1,500 kilometers, €400 for flights of more than 1,500 kilometers within the EU and for other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers, and €600 for all other flights"
Furthermore, a 2018 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) determined that a workers' strike is not considered to fall within "extraordinary circumstances", so the company cannot refuse compensation, the consumer rights organization said.
There are exceptions to the regulations, such as when the airline informs passengers of a cancellation "at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled departure time."
The CJEU in another ruling in May 2017 determined that the right to receive compensation is extended to those cases in which the flight is not canceled, but suffers a delay of more than three hours to its arrival time.
According to Facua, those affected by possible cancellations are always entitled to a full refund of the flight "within seven days", or to alternative transport to their destination.