Ryanair pilots in Spain have threatened to take legal action against the airline over their employment rights under Spanish law if they do not receive certain assurances within the next week.

The Spanish pilots' union SEPLA has written to Ryanair accusing management of failing to negotiate in good faith since formally recognising unions before Christmas.

SEPLA warns that if a meeting has not been held by 26 January, next Friday, to regularise the rights of Ryanair pilots in accordance with Spanish regulations, the union will proceed to initiate "...all legal actions that Spanish labour law grants us in defence of our legitimate rights".

In the letter, SEPLA says it is surprised and disappointed at documentation received from management, which continues to link payment of a 20% pay rise to conditions which pilots find unacceptable.

Pilots have criticised the airline for insisting on maintaining a system of 87 individual Employee Representative Councils which has been rejected by pilots in favour of union representation.

The letter accuses Ryanair of acting in bad faith by making the pay increases conditional on accepting what it calls "... a workers representation contrary to our labour law".

SEPLA calls on Ryanair to apply the 20% increase to all their pilots operating in Spain from 1 September last without making it conditional on "...renouncing to the legal workers representation recognized in our legislation".

The letter concludes: "If by January 26th a new meeting has not been held in order to regularize the rights of Ryanair pilots operating in Spain in accordance with Spanish regulations, we will proceed to initiate all legal actions that Spanish labour law grants us, in defense of our legitimate rights."

In a separate memo to its Ryanair members based in Spain, SEPLA says that at a union/management meeting in Madrid last Monday, the company expressed its willingness to pay the 20% increase in a document which reiterated a previous demand that the rejected ERCs must be recognised along with unions.

The memo states: "They warned us, they were going to send a message to all pilots to say that if the increase did not occur, it would be SEPLA's responsibility".

The SEPLA memo tells Spanish-based pilots that their representatives told management of their concerns about the legality of some employment practices.

It raises the possibility that some Ryanair employment practices could be challenged under Spanish law.

Asked for a comment on the SEPLA warning, Ryanair said it does not comment on "your rumour or speculation", or on discussions with their people in Spain or elsewhere.

They noted that 15 UK bases including Stansted had voted for the 20% pay rise this week, which will be rolled out in the January payroll run.

The airline said this brought Ryanair pilot pay in the UK to 20% more than competitor 737-operators Norwegian and Jet2.

It noted that it is continuing its recognition discussions with the UK pilot union BALPA, but both sides had agreed that the pay rises should not be delayed by the recognition negotiations, which were proceeding quickly.

The airline said the majority of its pilots in Ireland in Cork and Shannon had already agreed to these pay increases in a secret ballot, while contractors and new hires in Dublin were also already receiving the higher rates.

It said Ryanair is disappointed that the remaining 35% of Dublin pilots who are directly employed did not organise a vote by 17 January - so they will not receive the increases in the January payroll.

Ryanair said its discussions with the Irish pilots' union FORSA and its Ryanair Irish Pilots Council are progressing slowly - but that it will continue to communicate with the pilots who have not yet accepted the "substantial" pay rise.