While the activity of “low cost” airlines picks up, pilots and flight attendants mobilize in France to demand better wages and better working conditions after two years of efforts to cushion the losses caused by the pandemic COVID-19. Ryanair, Volotea, Vueling: notices of Strike have multiplied in France in recent weeks on low-cost airlines.
“In view of the efforts we made during Covid-19, we are expecting a fair return,” explains Jean Patrikainen, union representative of the national union of airline pilots (SNPL) at Ryanair. Last year, the pilots of the Irish company agreed to reduce their salary by 20% to overcome the crisis in the air sector. But “now we are working back to normal“, indicates Jean Patrikainen who asks for “an acceleration of the recovery of our salaries”. The agreement signed with the management foresees a very gradual recovery with a return to normal expected by 2025. An “unacceptable” pace given the “very strong recovery ” expected by the head of the group, Michael O’Leary.
Salary cut during the crisis
After threatening to strike on Saturday (67% of pilots had gone on strike), the SNPL lifted the notice on Thursday after management promised to open discussions after months of silence. At Volotea, a low-cost Spanish airline, the strike continues for this weekend. “Conditions have been steadily deteriorating for two years,” describes Christophe Hannot, SNPL union representative.
In the beginning, however, “everyone felt it was essential for employees to adapt to the situation,” he says. The captains agreed to cut their salaries by 25% and the co-pilots by 10%.
The measure ended at the beginning of the year, but in March the management returned to the charge to demand a new salary reduction. “Except that the prospects for the year 2022 already far exceed the figures for the year 2019”, indignant Christophe Hannot. “I think that (the “low cost” companies) took advantage of the Covid-19 to further deteriorate working conditions and operate this famous social dumping”, advances the pilot. The SNPL therefore asks for “a revaluation of the base salary, an increase in night shifts and fixed hours” with the end of the changes imposed 24 or 48 hours before a flight.
Cabin crew also on strike
Volotea’s management did not want to react. It only specifies that it is doing “everything possible to reduce the impact of the strike movement on its operations as much as possible.”
So far, only 14 pilots (out of a hundred) have gone on strike. But the cabin crew (PNC, stewardesses and stewardesses) have also warned.
The movement must be “massively followed”, foresees Alizée Bonaure, union representative of the SNPNC. At the Marseille and Strasbourg bases, 100% of the staff went on strike, she says.
Last Saturday, a similar move at Ryanair severely disrupted traffic with delays of up to 10 hours and the cancellation of a flight between Bordeaux and Marseille, according to the unions. “The company had sent five planes based in Poland and Lithuania to replace the striking crews,” explains Damien Mourgues of the SNPNC. Like the pilots, Ryanair cabin crew suspended their movement after starting talks with management.
The same at Vueling where the management, faced with the threat of a strike, agreed to increase wages by 150 euros gross for all employees with at least one year of seniority. A measure approved by short head (52.4%) by employees during an electronic vote.