German Ryanair pilots will strike for the first time Friday, union leaders said, dialing up the heat in a Europe-wide battle for recognition from the no-frills airline ahead of the busy holiday period.
The Irish carrier urged passengers to head to airports anyway, saying it had asked pilots to show up for duty and pledging to do its “upmost to minimise any disruptions”.
Germany’s powerful Cockpit union said pilots would hold a four-hour “warning strike” at German airports from 5-9 am (0400-0800 GMT) after initial talks with the airline were cancelled at short notice.
“All pilots directly employed by Ryanair will be called to strike,” Cockpit said, as national news agency DPA estimated the strike would affect some 16 flights with a total of 3,000 passengers.
If the call is heeded, it will mark the first industrial action by Ryanair pilots in the company’s 32-year history.
Ryanair said it “sincerely regrets” the move, calling the industrial action “unjustified and unnecessary” as it had assured the union earlier in the day to continue talks on a collective labour agreement.
The airline said it “apologises sincerely to any German customers worried or affected by this threatened four hour strike” but urged them to stick with their travel plans.
“We advise all customers in Germany to turn up as normal tomorrow, as we plan to operate all scheduled flights, and we will be doing our upmost to minimise any disruptions to the Christmas travel plans of our German customers,” said a statement by the company’s Robin Kiely.
The union Cockpit (VC) said Ryanair broke off the first scheduled talks this week because it objected to two of the five union members at the table, which it charged proved the company had “no desire to enter into constructive negotiations”.
It accused Ryanair of playing for time to avoid upheaval over the hectic Christmas and New Year period.
“Ryanair’s public offer to conduct negotiations with VC can only be classified as a further publicity stunt,” said Ingolf Schumacher, head of Cockpit’s industrial department.
Ryanair last week took the unprecedented step of offering to finally recognise unions after crew in Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal threatened walkouts in long-running rows over pay and conditions.
The move eased tensions but unions warned that strikes remained an option if the Dublin-based carrier was not serious about the discussions.
Just hours before the German strike call, Ryanair was able to stave off year-end travel chaos on home soil after clinching a deal with Ireland’s Impact union.
The union there said the danger of industrial action had “receded for the present” after Ryanair agreed to formally recognise Impact as the representative for the airline’s pilots.
But it cautioned that it expected management to reach agreement on procedures quickly so that the parties could move on to negotiate “substantial issues” around pilots’ pay and working conditions.
In Germany, Cockpit said it regretted the travel disruptions and urged passengers to contact Ryanair about the impact on flights.
“In the history of the VC, there has never been a case in which the collective bargaining autonomy has been trampled on by an employer as it is now the case with Ryanair,” it added.
Ryanair’s decision to move towards trade union recognition marks a historic turning point, given that pugnacious boss Michael O’Leary — in charge since 1994 — had vehemently opposed any union representation for staff.
But he came under increasing pressure after the airline was forced to cancel 20,000 flights through to March because of botched holiday scheduling.
The fiasco triggered pilots’ demands for better working conditions and representation, with some departing for other carriers.
Ryanair’s conditional offer to recognise pilot unions prompted unions in other European countries to suspend their strike plans.
The Italian union Anpac said it planned to meet with Ryanair representatives in Rome in January.
Ryanair, Europe’s second-largest airline by passenger numbers, has set itself the goal of transporting 200 million passengers annually by 2024.
Despite the recent troubles, it still expects to deliver annual profits after tax of 1.40 billion-1.45 billion euros ($1.65 billion-1.71 billion).
Mozambique: Government set to impose license fees for local journalists.
Mozambican government has announced plans to introduce license fees for local and foreign journalists.
Local correspondents will pay $2,500 per trip for media accreditation while foreign correspondents living in Mozambique will be charged $8,300 per year.
Mozambican journalists reporting for foreign news outlets will be required to pay $3,500 for an annual accreditation.
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This is 50 times more than the country’s statutory minimum wage, estimated at around $70 per month.
The plan fees have attracted serious criticism as the move has been viewed as an apparent attempt to discourage reporting from the country.
Mozambique’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has warned that the imposition of licensing fees on the country’s mass media must not compromise the fundamental right of the public to information.
In a statement, the CNDH, added its voice to the chorus of criticism of the proposed fees.
It conceded that the government has the right to update licensing and accreditation fees, but said such a measure should not undermine the right to information.
The CNDH points out that the current legal framework on access to information “takes as its guidelines the greatest divulging of information and free access to information… In other words, access to information is a matter of public interest and this access should be promoted and facilitated”.
It added: “The legal framework meant that the relevant state bodies must take measures to promote the broadest possible access to information”.
CNDS also warns that the enormous fees imposed by the July decree are not in line with the guidelines contained in the legal instruments on the right to information that are in force in the country.
The justification given for the fees is that they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector – but none of the money raised by the fees will go to the media.
The decree states that 60 percent of the money from the fees will go to the state budget, and the remaining 40 per cent will go to the government’s press office (Gabinfo).
Meanwhile, the government is showing signs of backing down.
On Tuesday, its spokesperson, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ana Comoana, said the decree will be discussed with interested parties before its implementation.
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South Africa: Man cleared of rape after 13 years in jail
After 13 years behind bars in Westville Prison, Njabulo Ndlovu will become a free man after being acquitted of rape at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in Durban.
The 35-year-old uMlazi man was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of the 2002 gang rape of a pregnant woman who knew him as they went to the same school and their fathers had worked together.
He was 19 and a second-year student at the University of Durban-Westville (today the University of KwaZulu-Natal) at the time. He testified during the trial that he had been nowhere near the place where the gang rape took place.
During the trial, three of the five accused were discharged due to lack of evidence, while Ndlovu and another remained in prison. After Monday, only one accused will remain in prison.
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While Ndlovu was in prison for over a decade, he never lost hope, as he continued pursuing law studies and received a law degree from Unisa in May this year.
And on Friday, a full bench of judges upheld the appeal against Ndlovu’s conviction and sentence. He now intends to sue the minister of justice for damages.