Ryanair has warned its pilots that it will meet "head on" any industrial action by them - including by withdrawing recent pay rises and other benefits. 

Ryanair pilots who have joined the ANPAC Union in Italy served notice of a four hour strike scheduled for 15 December. 

This followed yesterday's ballot backing strike action by the airline's pilots based in Portugal, and a warning from the Irish Air Line Pilots Association that it is reserving the right to ballot for strike action if Ryanair refuses to negotiate with bodies selected by employees. 

The airline has never been subject to a pilot strike, although baggage handlers took industrial action briefly in 1998, and the company does not recognise trade unions.

Ryanair said in a statement this evening that it expects the latest threatened action to not go ahead.

"This is the sixth time FIT/CISL or ANPAC has announced strikes by Ryanair pilots, only to postpone/cancel them later. We expect this latest threatened strike will also be postponed/cancelled since both FIT/CISL and ANPAC are Alitalia unions with no role in Ryanair," the company said.

In today's letter to Dublin-based pilots, Ryanair's Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson warned that if they support this "IALPA organised industrial action", the company will assume that the pilots no longer wish to deal directly with the airline through the current Employee Representative Committee system at individual bases (which has been criticised by the pilots). 

Mr Wilson says that this means that they will withdraw all benefits dependent on Ryanair's direct dealing collective agreement. 

He says that the Dublin base would be frozen until further notice, with no promotions for First Officers or Second Officers, and no transfers facilitated out of the base. 

In addition, the 5/4 roster, the recent €10,000 base allowance and other annual allowances will cease immediately. 

Mr Wilson also warns that the airline may in due course be forced to look at transferring some Dublin aircraft to lower cost airports elsewhere in Europe where pilots continue to deal directly with management. 

However, he stresses: "...we will NOT be dealing with Aer Lingus pilots or their union no matter how much or how long any such IALPA led action will occur".

He says that that following recent negotiations with individual ERCs in Belfast Cork and Shannon,  secret ballots of pilots at three of the four Irish bases have approved improvements in their pay and conditions. 

He notes that IALPA failed to impose union recognition in 2007 and will fail again now.