Ryanair has said it is prepared to recognise pilot unions as it seeks to avoid strike disruption over the Christmas period. Earlier this week, 79 Dublin-based Ryanair pilots had said they would strike for one day on 20 December.The airline was also facing action by pilots in Italy, Germany and Portugal.Ryanair has never recognised unions, but it said it would change this policy in order to avoid disruption to flights and passengers in Christmas week.It has written to pilot unions in Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal inviting them for talks.Impact, the Irish pilots’ union, said it had received Ryanair’s letter on Friday morning. It added it was considering the contents and would respond to the company before making a public statement. Brian Strutton, general secretary of UK pilots’ union Balpa tweeted that he had also received a written offer of recognition talks from Ryanair, adding that he would respond “later”.
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‘No strings’The carrier said it would recognise 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”.Chief operations officer Peter Bellew told the BBC there were “no strings” attached to the Ryanair offer. “The basis of what we’ve asked to do is the same as other airlines do around the world and within Europe, so I don’t believe there’s any strings there.”Ryanair called on the unions to cancel the planned strikes on 20 December.However, Mr Bellew said the offer to hold talks about collective bargaining was not just about next week’s planned strikes. “This is about the long term. We have 4,500 pilots working for Ryanair at the moment, great aviation professionals, we need to get a basis with them to work going forward.”We feel it’s the best grounds to move forward with our workforce for the next 10/20 years where we intend to grow to be the biggest airline in the world.”‘Significant change’Pilots in Italy had been due to strike on Friday for four hours, between 13:00 and 17:00 CET (12:00-16:00 GMT). However, following receipt of the letter from Ryanair, the main pilots’ union, Anpac, said it had suspended its walk out.It added it had written to Ryanair welcoming the invitation to hold talks, and asking the airline to recognise cabin crew as well. Chief executive Michael O’Leary admitted union recognition would be a “significant change” for the airline.”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,” he said. “If the best way to achieve this is to talk to our pilots through a recognised union process, then we are prepared to do so.”