RyanAir: why talk when you can fight?

RyanAir is simply incapable it seems, of seeing its staff as an asset rather than as the enemy.

The company seems to have developed a method of treating staff like a consumable, when you run out or don’t like what you have, get rid of it and buy a new one.

It’s willingness to talk to staff, hear their grievances, work with them and reach a mutually beneficial solution is completely missing from the corporate operating manual.

If it’s not UK pilots threatening strike action over pay and conditions, it’s now the Irish pilots.

Over at the new Austrian subsidiary LaudaMotion the tactic of announcing “either sign a new productivity deal or there will be cuts” seems to be the preferred negotiating ploy.

Over in Holland, RyanAir’s idea for resolving a cabin crew and pilot dispute was to threaten the closure of its Eindhoven base, more as retaliation than negotiation.

Everywhere you look, if RyanAir has a personnel issue it’s confronting it head on without even starting to negotiate.

It’s even done the same thing with Peter Bellew it’s COO. He left a couple of years ago to run Malaysia Airlines, then came back when that didn’t work out. He’s now resigned to go and work for easyJet in the same role.

That is a bit surprising, most companies at that level have 6 month non-compete clauses as a minimum but easyJet don’t seem bothered. Bellew is now facing RyanAir’s wrath rather than them talking to him, according to sources and already legal action seems to be the way forward.

RyanAir claims it hasn’t time to meet with all of the separate airline unions, but the unions have offered joint talks to reach a European wide agreement.

RyanAir however seem to prefer them divided – easy to bash one small group than face a united opposition. In fact the airline deliberately went out of its way to try and negotiate individual agreements with smaller groups than approach the whole thing as one.

The strategy can only be that the airline thinks if it has disputes, rather than a pan-European total strike that would ground it, it’ll only have to face one or two down piecemeal. If it beats them into submission it’ll deter the others from doing anything.

That ‘Wack-a-mole’ strategy seems to be deeply damaging long term. It’s demoralising, it’s hard to manage and it’s wasteful of everyone’s time and resources. Running round trying to suppress isolated issues works shot term. But it’s like having a progressive skin cancer, you can keep it from itching but it’s still not going away, and untreated will kill you.

A year ago RyanAir said it would ensure all of its staff were covered by a Comprehensive Labour Agreement, that contractors would be offered employment opportunities. Other than a couple of small deals in Belgium and Portugal, none of it’s happened.

RyanAir seems convinced that what frankly comes close to bullying, with threats and arrogance is a better way of managing its business. It seems to think it’s doing it’s work force a favour employing them.

RyanAir is risking its business longer term. Reputations for strikes and upheaval eventually stick and put customers off. EasyJet never have these issues and staff are generally happy and motivated. They’re a successful airline.

What is it with RyanAir that they think destructive war fighting with the people who work for it is a good thing?

Who doesn’t want peace and respect from their employer to get on and do their jobs for reasonable pay and working conditions?

If RyanAir is going to have a successful and respected business long term – a downturn is coming, European over capacity is at ridiculously high levels and passenger growth has markedly slowed this year, it needs to rethink its attitude. What it’s doing won’t work long term. It never has and it never will.