German strike plunges Ryanair into fresh turmoil

German pilots and cabin crew for budget Irish carrier Ryanair walked off the job on Wednesday, disrupting travel for thousands of passengers in the latest flare-up of a bitter Europe-wide battle for better pay and conditions.
The Irish budget carrier said it was cancelling 150 out of 400 scheduled flights to and from Germany because of the walkout, which it slammed as “unacceptable” and “unnecessary”.
It also said it may have to close some bases and slash jobs if the stoppages drag on.
Germany’s Cockpit pilots’ federation and the Verdi service workers’ union called the 24-hour strike, which started at 03:00 am (0100 GMT), after they said talks with Ryanair management were deadlocked.
“We hope that this strike shows a significant effect, that the company realises the employees won’t accept rotten working conditions and bad pay any longer,” said Verdi spokesman Andreas Splanemann at a demo by cabin crew at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport.
But with affected passengers largely warned off in advance, there were few stranded travellers to see the workers with their placards reading “no rights, no flights”.
The strike comes as Ryanair is already bracing for a mass coordinated walkout by cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Union leaders are expected to announce details of the stoppage in Brussels on Thursday.
They have vowed to stage “the biggest strike action the company has ever seen”.
Ryanair has been clashing with worker representatives ever since it took the unprecedented step last year to start recognising trade unions in a bid to avert widespread Christmas strikes.
Last month, Ryanair pilots in five European countries including Germany held their first-ever simultaneous walkout, causing some 400 flight cancellations and travel chaos for 55,000 passengers.
33-year-old Ryanair has however struck some labour agreements since then, reaching its first-ever union deal with Italian pilots in late August.
In Ireland, pilots voted to accept an agreement on improved working conditions last week.
The breakthrough prompted Ryanair to back down from an earlier threat that it would move several aircraft and 300 jobs from Ireland to Poland. — AFP