By Ingrid Miley
A quarter of Ryanair's Irish-based pilots began a 24-hour strike early this morning over their conditions of employment after talks between both sides broke down yesterday.
Ryanair says it has made alternative arrangements for around 5,000 passengers affected by the cancellation of 30 of its 290 scheduled flights today.
Around 100 of Ryanair's directly-employed pilots based in Ireland have taken to the picket line for the first time in the company's history here.
Even though three-quarters of the airline's pilots, who are employed as contractors through agencies are working normally, Ryanair was forced to cancel 30 flights in and out of Ireland.
The airline does not anticipate that there will be major disruption, as most of over 5,000 affected passengers have already been rerouted or refunded.
Both sides have said they remain available for talks and want to resolve their difficulties.
It remains to be seen whether today's stoppage will concentrate minds, encourage Ryanair and Fórsa to get down to business, and avert further industrial unrest for passengers caught in the crossfire.
Fórsa National Secretary Angela Kirk has said the union was not in a position to consider calling off today's strike, as both sides could not agreed on the terms of reference.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said Fórsa and Ryanair pilots went into yesterday's meeting with a strong position that they wanted to "reach agreement and suspend the strike and not disrupt the public".
Ms Kirk outlined what it would have taken to avoid strike action.
"It would have taken for the company to meaningfully engage on the 11 points that were issued to them in relation to the action.
"We would have had to be convinced that we had significant progress on those 11 points. That was not achieved yesterday," she said.
She went on to say there has been a difficulty since Christmas, in that all the meetings that take place with Ryanair management are "at the eleventh hour", adding that: "management of Ryanair will only meaningfully come to the table when they are faced with strike notice."
She said Fórsa and Ryanair pilots will meet and look at options going forward.
Ms Kirk added that the prospect of further industrial action could not be ruled out while the union remains open to third party intervention.