German pilots and cabin crew of the Irish airline Ryanair left work on Wednesday, interrupting the travel of thousands of passengers in the last outbreak of a bitter battle across Europe for better wages and conditions.
The Irish budget provider said it would cancel 150 of the 400 scheduled flights to and from Germany due to the strike, which it called "unacceptable" and "unnecessary".
He also said that he might have to close some bases and cut jobs if the interruptions are prolonged.
The German federation of pilots and the Verdi service workers union called a 24-hour strike, which began at 03:00 a.m. (0100 GMT), after they said that negotiations with Ryanair management were stalled.
"We hope that this strike shows a significant effect, that the company realizes that employees will not accept bad working conditions and bad pay for longer," Verdi spokesman Andreas Splanemann said in a demonstration by the cabin staff at the Schoenefeld airport in Berlin.
But with the affected passengers largely warned in advance, there were few stranded travelers to see the workers with their banners saying "no rights, no flights".
The strike occurs while Ryanair is preparing for a massive coordinated strike by the cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The union leaders are expected to announce details of the stoppage in Brussels on Thursday.
They have promised to organize "the biggest strike the company has ever seen."
Ryanair has been colliding with workers' representatives since taking the unprecedented step last year to start recognizing unions in an attempt to avoid widespread Christmas strikes.
Last month, Ryanair pilots in five European countries, including Germany, made their first simultaneous strike, which caused some 400 flight cancellations and a chaos in the journey of 55,000 passengers.
However, Ryanair, 33, achieved some labor agreements since then, reaching its first union agreement with Italian pilots at the end of August.
In Ireland, the pilots voted to accept an agreement on better working conditions last week.
The advance prompted Ryanair to retract a previous threat that it would move several aircraft and 300 jobs from Ireland to Poland.
German unions Cockpit and Verdi, which represent some 400 Ryanair pilots based in Germany and 1,000 flight attendants, condemned the airline's attempt to squeeze them with a similar threat.
"This is how Ryanair deals with its employees: press them, scare them and threaten to lose jobs," Cockpit vice president Markus Wahl told AFP.
"We are not threatening," Ryanair marketing director Kenny Jacobs said at a news conference in Frankfurt on Tuesday.
"If you have strikes in progress, that's the economic impact."
& # 39; 190,000 euros per year & # 39;
The airline without luxuries has lower costs per passenger than its competitors and expects profits of around 1.25 million euros ($ 1.45 billion) this year.
But the staff has complained for a long time that they earn less than their counterparts in rival airlines.
Another key complaint of workers from other countries besides Ireland is the fact that Ryanair employs them under Irish law.
They say that this creates enormous insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.
Trade unions also want the airline to give contractors the same working conditions as staff employees.
Ryanair replies that it has already offered important salary increases and more stable contracts.
He said that German pilots can earn "up to 190,000 euros a year".
But Cockpit & # 39; s Wahl said it only applies to "a handful" of people, with starting salaries of around 39,000 euros and more experienced travelers take home around 110,000 euros a year at a fixed salary, which can be recharged depending on the flight hours.
Wahl said the pilots were fighting for more salary in general, and specifically a higher fixed-rate salary.
The union Verdi said Ryanair cabin crew earn a basic gross salary of 800 to 1,200 euros a month on average, well below what their rival EasyJet pays.
"Salaries are so low that they are insufficient to guarantee a decent standard of living," said Christine Behle, a board member of Verdi.