By Victoria Bryan
BERLIN (Reuters) - German pilots at Ryanair <RYA.I> have called for a four-hour strike on Friday that is set to be the first by pilots in the company's history after the Vereinigung Cockpit union said it was unhappy with the Irish airline's approach to talks.
The strike comes less than a week after Ryanair shocked investors by saying it would recognize unions for the first time in its 32-year history in a bid to avert coordinated strikes across Europe over the Christmas period.
The walkout in Germany, described as a "warning strike", will take place from 0401 GMT to 0759 GMT and will affect flights from all German airports, VC said in a statement.
Around 16 Ryanair flights are due to depart from Germany in that time. Ryanair said it had written to pilots to ask them to work as normal.
"We advise all customers in Germany to turn up as normal tomorrow, as we plan to operate all scheduled flights," Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said in a statement. "We will be doing our utmost to minimize any disruptions to the Christmas travel plans of our German customers."
Despite Ryanair's offer to talk with unions, VC said Ryanair had refused to accept two members of a delegation that the union nominated to hold talks with management. One of the pilots was a contractor and one a direct employee, but Ryanair has ended both of their contracts, VC said.
The union said trade unions in Germany have the right to say who can undertake negotiations and that it would not be dictated to by Ryanair on this point.
"This has shown us that nothing has changed with Ryanair's management style or how it handles workers' rights," VC President Ilja Schulz told reporters, sitting behind a table bearing the slogan "No landing clearance for Irish social dumping".
Ryanair said it was happy to negotiate with German pilots and VC officials, but not with non-Ryanair pilots or one who is in litigation with the company.
Ryanair has also offered to hold talks on Jan. 5 but Schulz said those talks were subject to the same conditions and so the strike would go ahead.
"Ryanair obviously doesn't believe that VC is in a position to organize a strike or that the Ryanair pilots in Germany have had enough with how they are treated," he said.
Ryanair said it would continue to engage with the VC union and its German pilots to try and reach a collective labor agreement in early January.
Analysts at Bernstein said the strike demonstrated the volatility of the situation at Ryanair and that it showed a long and protracted process may be ahead.
"We see the breakdown of talks before they had even started as further evidence that Ryanair needs to build the organizational infrastructure, capability and mindset to deal with union negotiations that cannot be broken by ultimatums," they wrote in a note.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin and Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Editing by Greg Mahlich and David Evans)