Ryanair cabin crew strike cancels dozens of European flights

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LISBON/BRUSSELS – Some Ryanair cabin crew went on strike in Belgium, Spain and Portugal on Friday in a dispute over wages and working conditions, causing limited disruption as the airline down Price canceled dozens of flights that left hundreds of passengers stranded.

Soaring inflation across Europe has led millions of workers to grapple with higher living costs, prompting unions to demand higher pay rises, often backed by strike calls.

Airlines and airport operators across Europe have also faced staff shortages to manage passenger flow as travel demand rebounds with the end of most COVID-19 restrictions. . Workers at several other airlines, including British Airways, are also planning strikes this summer.

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Ryanair cabin crew unions in Belgium, Spain and Portugal have called a three-day strike from Friday. Staff in France and Italy were due out this weekend. Crews in Spain are expected to strike again on June 30 and July 1 and 2.

Workers say the Irish airline is failing to comply with local labor laws covering issues such as the minimum wage and are urging Ryanair bosses to improve working conditions.

“The conditions are terrible,” said Ricardo Penarroias, president of SNPVAC, the union behind the Portugal walkout. “A crew member is not even allowed to take a bottle of water on a flight.”

Ryanair did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but told Reuters last week it had negotiated working arrangements covering 90% of its staff across Europe and did not expect not to widespread disruptions this summer.

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PRICE-WAGE SPIRAL

While much of the labor unrest has focused on the transport sector as it deals with a return to travel after the pandemic shutdowns, there are signs of it spreading to other sectors – the French union CGT is organizing a one-day strike on Friday to seek higher wages for oil refinery workers after talks with operator TotalEnergies broke down.

With inflation over 8% in the eurozone, a 40-year high of 9.1% in Britain and double digits in some central and eastern European economies, authorities are concerned about the development of a wage-price spiral in which rising wage demands aggravate inflationary pressures.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde has warned that the longer inflation remains, the more influence it will have on wage negotiations.

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The pilot and cabin crew unions of Brussels Airlines, the Belgian subsidiary of Lufthansa, also went on strike on Thursday. Over the three days, Brussels Airlines plans to cancel around 60% of its 533 flights.

Belgium is likely to be the hardest hit by the Ryanair strike, with local media saying 127 flights at Charleroi airport in Brussels will be cancelled, affecting 21,000 passengers.

In Lisbon, two flights were canceled on Friday so far, both bound for Brussels. A total of 18 Ryanair flights between Brussels and Spanish cities were canceled on Friday and Saturday, the Spanish cabin crew union USO said.

In Spain, the government forced the company to operate 73-82% of flights during the strike period to maintain minimum service, forcing most to go to work.

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The SNPVAC union said few flights would be canceled from Portuguese airports because the airline put strikers on hold and asked cabin crew from other countries to replace them. Ryanair said SNPVAC only represents 3% of its staff in Portugal.

Outside Lisbon airport, American Michael Rossides, 59, said he booked an EasyJet flight because he thought Ryanair would cancel it, but that ultimately didn’t happen.

“We lost a lot of time, a few overtime hours and a few hundred dollars,” he said. (Reporting by Catarina Demony, Patricia Rua and Miguel Pereira in Lisbon, Inti Landaro in Madrid and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Mary I. Bruner