Ryanair row deepens as European pilots strike - Canadanewsmedia
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Ryanair row deepens as European pilots strike

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FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Ryanair is bracing for mass travel disruptions on Friday as pilots across Europe begin a coordinated 24-hour strike to push their demands for better pay and conditions at the peak of the busy summer season.

The Irish no-frills airline said it would be scrapping some 400 out of 2,400 European flights scheduled for Friday as pilots in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands walked off the job.

Around 55,000 passengers would be affected by the strikes, said Ryanair, which has offered customers refunds or the option of rerouting their journey.

Ryanair has slammed the strikes as “unnecessary” but pilots counter that the carrier has refused to engage in meaningful dialogue about collective labour agreements since it began recognising unions in December 2017.

Germany will be worst hit by the industrial action, with 250 flight cancellations at 10 airports.

The country’s powerful Cockpit union said it had called on Ryanair’s roughly 480 Germany-based pilots to walk out from 03:01 am (0101 GMT) until 02:59 am Saturday.

It accused Ryanair of “categorically” ruling out higher personnel costs for cockpit crew, leaving no room for a compromise.

“Ryanair alone is responsible for the escalation we are now seeing,” Cockpit president Martin Locher told a press conference on Wednesday.

In the Netherlands, Ryanair filed for an urgent court order to try to prevent Dutch pilots from joining the industrial action.

But the Haarlem District Court on Thursday ruled against the airline. “The strike may go ahead,” judge Theo Roell said.

In the Netherlands around 22 flights from Eindhoven airport could potentially be affected, the ANP news agency reported.

But Ryanair, in a statement said, “there will be no cancellations (of flights to and from the Netherlands) as a result of the unnecessary strike action by the Dutch pilot union”.

And in a later statement, Ryanair said that despite the “regrettable and unjustified strike action” more than 2,000 flights — 85% of its schedule — would operate as normal across Europe on Friday.

Customers were notified as early as possible and a majority of those affected had already been moved to another Ryanair flight, the airline added.

Turbulent summer

The unprecedented simultaneous strike action is the latest headache in a turbulent summer for Europe’s second-largest airline.

It already suffered a round of strikes by cockpit and cabin crew last month that disrupted 600 flights in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, affecting 100,000 travellers.

Ryanair, which flies in 37 countries and carried 130 million passengers last year, averted widespread Christmas strikes last year by agreeing to recognise trade unions for the first time in its 33-year history.

Since then, however, it has struggled to reach agreements.

The company is eyeing profits of around 1.25 billion euros (RM5.86 billion) this year and boasts lower costs per passenger than its competitors.

But Ryanair pilots say they earn less than counterparts at other airlines like Lufthansa.

Unions also want the airline to give contractors the same work conditions as staff employees.

Another key complaint of workers based in countries other than Ireland is the fact that Ryanair employs them under Irish legislation, arguing most of its employees work on board Irish planes.

Staff claim this creates huge insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.

Threat to move jobs

At a Frankfurt press conference on Wednesday, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said the company’s German pilots enjoy “excellent working conditions”, earning up to 190,000 euros (RM890,178) annually, which he said was more than their peers at budget rival Eurowings made.

He added that Ryanair had already offered a 20% pay increase this year and that 80% of its pilots in Germany were now on permanent contracts.

Ryanair has repeatedly said it remained open to further talks with pilot representatives.

But its combative chief executive Michael O’Leary has also warned the airline may shift jobs and planes to more profitable areas if the turmoil continues.

It has already threatened to move part of its Dublin fleet to Poland, which could cost 300 jobs, including 100 pilot positions.

Unions have strongly condemned what they see as Ryanair’s attempts to play countries off against each other.

Peter Scherrer, deputy secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation, said he welcomed Friday’s cross-border show of unity by pilots because it made it harder for management to ignore their demands.

“I think it also sends a signal to other companies where workers are played off against each other,” he told Germany’s regional broadcaster RBB. — AFP

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Several anti-pipeline protesters released from BC jail days before week-long sentences end

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Several pipeline protesters were released from a British Columbia jail on Sunday, a few days before their week-long sentences were set to end.

Seven protesters in all were sentenced to a week-long jail term on Aug. 15, after pleading guilty to contempt charges in B.C. Supreme Court.

Five who were released on Sunday issued a joint statement, saying they were imprisoned because of their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

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In the statement, the five women – who include anti-poverty activist and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson – said they are not criminals, but “political prisoners.”

Swanson said in a phone interview that her four days spent at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, B.C., had not deterred her in what she said is a fight against climate change.

“I don’t know how anyone can look at the sky in Vancouver today and say global warming is not an issue,” said Swanson, in reference to the smoke and particulate matter from wildfires hazing the skies in southwestern B.C.

“We need to do something, we need to stop the insanity.”

From her perspective as an anti-poverty advocate, Swanson said the Trans Mountain pipeline ties the issues of homelessness, poverty and climate change together.

“For all those billions and billions of dollars, governments could actually create jobs building renewable energy…. Governments could end homelessness, they could put clean and safe water on Indigenous reserves.”

In May, the federal government announced its intent to acquire Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Canada.

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According to recent documents filed with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, the sale could cost as much as $1.9-billion more than the initial quote of $4.5-billion.

The documents also suggest the project could take another 12 months to finish.

More than 200 activists have been arrested for demonstrations against the Trans Mountain project since March.

Those released on Sunday also included former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert.

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Online pot sales will leave a lot of information at risk, say experts

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TORONTO — Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational pot online after legalization this fall should be able to rely on existing laws to protect their privacy but the issue needs to be watched closely to ensure regulations are obeyed and mistakes are avoided, experts say.

The matter is important given the stigma many people still attach to marijuana use, and the potential for Canadians to be barred from the United States if their otherwise legal indulgence becomes known to American border agents.

“We need to keep eyes on it, meaning we have to make sure this information is not abused or used for secondary purposes that were never intended,” Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner and now an expert at Ryerson University, said in an interview. “Theoretically, it should not be used for any other purpose.”

A spokesperson for federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said the office had not looked specifically at online marijuana sales. At the same time, the commission said it recognized privacy concerns around buying or using marijuana given its longtime status as a controlled substance.

“The legal sale and use of both medicinal and recreational marijuana raises privacy issues, particularly since laws and regulations differ from country to country and even within countries,” Tobi Cohen said. “We have repeatedly raised concerns about the effectiveness of (Canada’s two privacy laws) in the digital age and have called for both laws to be strengthened.”

Last week, Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government announced that consumers 19 years or older will have to go online to buy weed after legalization federally on Oct. 17 because private retail stores won’t be up and running until April. A government agency called the Ontario Cannabis Store will run the online sales, although private e-commerce provider Shopify will be involved.

Online buyers will, at minimum, have to provide a name along with email and delivery address, and payment information. In Ontario, as is currently the case with online alcohol sales, buyers will be able to order as a “guest” without creating an online account.

However, Scott Blodgett, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, said buyers will have to provide proof of age via government-issued ID, which a delivery person will verify but not copy. The cannabis store website will have data security and privacy controls “aligned with global e-commerce best practice,” he said.

Personal data will remain in Canada and not be shared with third parties, Blodgett said.

Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish was unavailable to discuss the issue but his office said in a statement that public institutions are accountable for the information they collect.

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