Ryanair will start recognising pilot unions to avoid massive Christmas time strikes

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The Irish carrier said it would hold talks with unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal to recognize them as long as they established a committee made up exclusively of Ryanair pilots, "as Ryanair will not engage with pilots who fly for competitor airlines in Ireland or elsewhere".

The Irish company said Friday it has written to pilot organizations in Ireland, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, inviting each of them to talks. The shares fell the most in five months.

"We wish to remove any worry or concern that they may be disrupted by pilot industrial action next week", he said on Friday (15 December).

"It's part of a process of change that we need to go through", he said.

A source for Italy's main pilot union ANPAC has told reporters the strike has been called off.

The note admits that airline leaves behind its traditional policy of not recognizing unions and that it does "to avoid any threat of disturbance to its customers and ir flights by pilots ' unions during Christmas week". The action would have been the carrier's first-ever and the opening volley in a series of disruptions by labor groups in other European countries.

Ryanair said its offer applied to pilots' bodies in those countries, as well as Britain and Spain.

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Impact, a union that represents Irish pilots, had threatened to strike on December 20 as it sought to gain recognition and start discussions on pilot pay and working conditions.

A German pilot union was also understood to be preparing to announce a strike by Ryanair pilots next week.

A Ryanair plane at Dublin airport.

"Recognizing unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before", O'Leary said in a statement.

The carrier, which uses contract pilots on some flights, said it would not engage with pilots who also fly for competitor airlines.

The Irish Times reports this morning that crew from the airline's European bases could be drafted in to cover the routes impacted. "In the longer term, the consequences could be profound". That decision could pave the way for a flurry of claims outside of Ireland and a possible increase in employment costs, analysts had said at the time.

"Ryanair is likely to be forced to engage in lengthy negotiations processes", they said.