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In Germany Ryanair faces first-ever pilot strike



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.

Walk-out threats

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.

Turning point

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).


Kenyan Bishop Bags 75 Years Jail Term For Defiling Three Girls



A bishop accused of defiling three girls he was living with at an orphanage, infecting one of them with HIV has now sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Kisumu Resident Magistrate Pauline Mbulika found him guilty of three counts of defilement and deliberate transmission of HIV.

Joseph Agutu had promised to sponsor the minors before he started defiling them.

Agutu who hid his face from the cameras as police escorted him out of the solitary cell to Kodiaga Maximum Prison, had maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings.

He was charged with committing the crime against the girls between April and July 2016. One of the girls is aged 14 while two are 15 years old.


The court heard that the accused intentionally committed the crime and deliberately infected one of the minors with HIV.

The accused also reportedly touched the girls inappropriately on various dates between April and July 12, 2016. In addition, Agutu also faced an alternative charge of touching the private parts of the minors.

Four prosecution witnesses pointed an accusing finger to the Bishop with the minors recounting the sexual encounters that the man subjected them to.


One of the minors who is an orphan painfully narrated to the court how the bishop lured her and her grandmother to the trap.

“My grandmother brought me to him and he promised to sponsor my education. My grandmother went back home and left me with him at the church,” said the minor.

After a while, she told the court, the bishop defiled her and called the other girl and defiled them too as she slept on the floor. She said they were crying throughout the ordeal.

The court heard that the following morning the bishop refused to allow them to go to school but instead ordered them to go to church.


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Mitsubishi exits thermal coal sector, sells stakes in Australia mines



Japan’s Mitsubishi has said it will sell its stakes in two Australian thermal coal mines for A$750-million, a move that means its exit from upstream thermal coal amid growing pressure from environmental activists.

The stake sales comes as a growing number of companies and pension funds across the globe are divesting assets or companies that generate revenues from fossil fuels, particularly coal.

Thermal coal, used to power turbines to produce electricity, has fallen out of favour with investors worried about pollution and greenhouse gases.

Mitsubishi will sell its 31.4% stake in Clermont coal mine to a joint venture between Glencore and Sumitomo, and its 10% stake in Ulan coal mine to Glencore, it said in a statement.

The deals are aimed at optimising its asset portfolio, Mitsubishi said.


For Mitsubishi, which decided to sell its interest in two other thermal coal mines in Australia last year, the latest deals will mean an exit from thermal coal operations, although its coking coal operation will remain a key asset for the trading house.

The Clermont deal, expected to be completed in 2019, will bring the Glencore-Sumitomo joint venture’s stake in the mine to nearly 81.5%, Sumitomo said in a separate statement.


“The acquisition will allow us to continue stable supply of high-quality thermal coal to our existing customers, including Japanese utilities,” a Sumitomo spokesman said.

Sumitomo’s share of the Clermont purchase means it will pay about 23-billion yen for a 15.7% stake in the mine, he said.

Sumitomo has no plans to invest in any new development projects for thermal coal mines, given the serious concerns over climate change, the spokesman said.


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