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'Ryanair don't get what they're up against'

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'Ryanair don't get what they're up against'
Ryanair takes off from Billund airport. Photo: Claus Fisker/Scanpix
08:20 CET+01:00
Danish air unions are threatening to batter budget airline Ryanair with strikes, as it formally announces a slew of new flights from Copenhagen's Kastrup airport.
The airline, which has long operated flights out of Billund and Aarhus in Jutland, is scheduled to start flying from its new base on March 26, launching services to London, Warsaw and Milan. 
 
At a press conference in Copenhagen this morning, the airline's commercial director, David O'Brien, announced that the airline had struck a deal with Nordic company Aviator
to handle baggage.  
 
"We have reached an agreement on ground handling with Aviator. What agreements they have with their employees is something we will not interfere with," he said. "But I cannot imagine why they would say no to the job." 
 
He also revealed that the airline planned to serve four more destinations from Copenhagen, Madrid and Rome, starting in September, and Brussels and Stockholm in October.
 
Thilde Waast, from Denmark’s FPU trade union, told Denmark's Avisen newspaper  ahead of the press conference that her union remained unhappy with the terms Ryanair offered its employees. 
 
“Ryanair pilots and flight attendants are working under conditions that are unacceptable to us, so we expect to come into conflict with the company,” she said.  “We have no interest in causing trouble for Ryanair, but we have to get an agreement with them to work under Danish conditions.” 
 
The airline has thus far refused to meet union representatives, something its commercial director, David O'Brien, said was its standard practice across Europe. 
 
“We work directly with employees. We do not cooperate with trade unions,” he said when he announced the airline's Copenhagen plans in October. 
 
According to Danish state broadcaster DR, other unions within the LO Federation, such as the the 3F,  HK and Danskse Metal unions, are ready to launch sympathy strikes against the airline. 
 
3F Kastrup, which represents baggage handlers at Kastrup, could ask its members to refuse to load baggage onto Ryanair flights, making it difficult for the airline to run services. 

“We hope that Ryanair will pull itself together and sign an agreement,” the union's chairman Henrik Bay-Clausen told the newspaper.  “That’s what McDonald's ended up doing in Denmark.” 

Waast said that Ryanair staff had to serve a year’s probation, had no right to sick leave or holiday pay, and had no certainty over how many shifts the airline would give them. 
 
“Ryanair is in a class of its own when it comes to staff terms,” she said, adding that they were “scraping the bottom even when compared to other low cost airlines such as EasyJet and Norwegian”. 
 
Jesper Due, professor of labour market research at Copenhagen University, said that it was possible that Ryanair had underestimated the strength of Denmark's unions. 
 
"Depending on how far the conflict develops, it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for Ryanair to operate from Copenhagen Airport," he told Denmark's Ritzau newswire.  "There's something that suggests that Ryanair does not understand what they're up against." 
 
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