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Cabin crew workers for budget carrier Ryanair based in four European countries went on strike Wednesday to protest their work conditions.

Ryanair cabin crew staffers in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Italy are on strike, forcing the low-cost carrier to cancel about 600 flights during the peak summer travel season. The cancellations are about one-eighth of the carrier’s operations in Europe. Spain was the country with the most cancellations, with nearly one in four Ryanair flights grounded. Massive protests were erupting Wednesday outside the Madrid airport.

At least 50,000 passengers are affected by the two-day strike, all of whom Ryanair says it either re-accommodated or gave full refunds.

Some of the canceled passengers were nevertheless supporting the strike on Twitter.

“Regardless of the fact that i might be grounded tomorrow, I am very proud of the Ryanair strike,” one Spanish flyer wrote on Twitter. “If the company does not give you decent rights as a worker, the workers must take them.”

Another person tweeted: “I see headlines and live TV about how travelers are coping with the Ryanair strike. Sorry, but I am much more interested in how workers are coping and why they had to resort to this to claim their rights. Enough carrying water for big corporations. #solidarity”

The labor unions organizing the strike claim that “employees are hired by Ryanair or its subsidiaries under contracts governed by countries where they are not based, reducing their leave allowances, causing wage disparities and impeding the workers’ access to state benefits,” the AP reports.

Ryanair contends that its cabin crews have fair work conditions. The Irish airline even published the salaries of its workers online, saying that the crew members in Portugal, Spain and Belgium (where the strikes were first declared) are fairly paid.

As a response to the strikes, Ryanair announced it would reduce its fleet at its Dublin base by 20% this winter (down from 30 aircraft to 24), with about 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew members facing potential layoffs.

The strikes began on Wednesday and are set to stretch until the end of Thursday.


Featured image by _jure / Getty Images.

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