Irish airline Ryanair wins legal battle in Charleroi

  • Six ex-employees believed their case fell under Belgian labor law.
  • Charleroi’s labor court declared that it did not have jurisdiction.
  • The company’s pilots have formed a group and made certain demands.

 

“It’s a letdown.”Virginie Mauguit, a former employee of Ryanair, and Yves

Lambot, permanent secretary of the CNE union, were forced to state the obvious: the six members of staff of the low-cost Irish airline had expected great things from the labor court of Charleroi’s ruling on Monday. Their disappointment therefore matched those expectations.

 

In fact, the court declared that it did not have jurisdiction to judge the dispute between the two parties. The plaintiffs were demanding a provisional sum of €20,000 from their (ex-) employer, for the non-payment of certain social benefits provided for by Belgian law and sector-specific collective agreements (end-of-year bonuses, holiday pay, other benefits). But the airline refused, arguing that these obligations did not exist under Irish law. This situation has raised the following question: are Ryanair employees subject to the labor law of the country in which their employer is based, or in the one where they carry out the majority of their work?

 

During in-court discussions, the plaintiffs demonstrated that they lived in the vicinity of Charleroi Airport in Gosselies, that they took off and landed there, that they were made aware of their work schedules from a computer located in the airport terminal, and that some meetings (inspections, disciplinary hearings) also took place there.

 

The opposing party contested this, claiming that the most important tasks performed by its staff were carried out in-flight and that rosters and other work-related decisions were taken from Dublin. The court ruled that the evidence provided by the six employees was not sufficient to establish that Charleroi was indeed their usual place of work. It then came to the decision that the dispute falls under the jurisdiction of the Irish courts.

 

“It’s a disappointment because we were trying to create a legal precedent in Europe for the people at Ryanair and for other pilots,” bemoaned Yves Lambot, adding that the CNE was going to study the possibility of lodging an appeal, especially as, in 2005, the Charleroi labor court had found in favor of three Ryanair employees who were fired without benefits after a year-long trial period (as stipulated by Irish law), while, under Belgian law, the trial period ended after six months. At the beginning of October, courts in France ordered Ryanair to pay €10 million in compensation and interest for having breached French labor law at Marseille Provence Airport, a verdict that the airline duly appealed.

 

This is not the only revolt that Ryanair is currently facing. A few days ago, the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) spoke to the press about its attempts to obtain better working conditions for the 3,000-odd pilots that fly for the Irish company. RPG’s main demand? The introduction of a common basic contract for all of the low-cost operator’s pilots, one which respects the employment law of the country in which they are based.

 

PASCAL LORENT

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