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Ryanair Lets “Hell Freeze Over” to Keep Planes in the Air Over the Holidays

Michael O’Leary previously said that “hell will freeze over” before the airline recognizes trade unions, but faced with pre-Christmas industrial action, the carrier has been forced to make a U-turn.

Marking a sudden and drastic about-face in its labor policy, low-cost carrier Ryanair has said that it is now prepared to recognize pilots’ unions. This comes just months after chief executive Michael O’Leary claimed that “hell will freeze over” before the carrier acknowledges labor bodies.

The Standard reports that Ryanair’s sudden change in policy is part of a strategic move to halt planned industrial action that is due to take place just before Christmas. In an official statement, the carrier said that “it has written to the pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting each of them to talks to recognize these unions as the representative body for pilots in Ryanair in each of these countries, as long as they establish Committees of Ryanair pilots to deal with Ryanair issues, as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere.”

The outlet reports that about a third of the airline’s Dublin-based pilots were due to strike on December 20. Industrial action was also due to take place among the carrier’s German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese pilots.

This moment marks something of a watershed for Ryanair, which has exhibited a long-standing hostility towards organized labor.

Commenting on the situation, O’Leary said, “Christmas flights are very important to our customers and we wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week. If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognized union process, then we are prepared to do so, and we have written today to these unions inviting them to talks to recognize them and calling on them to cancel the threatened industrial action planned for Christmas week.”

“Putting the needs of our customers first, and avoiding disruption to their Christmas flights, is the reason why we will now deal with our pilots through recognized national union structures and we hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the New Year,” he added.

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