There could be trouble brewing on the horizon for how Ryanair employs its cabin crew across Europe but the airline insists the “status quo” will remain. It comes after the European Court of Justice today ruled on a case brought by a group of Belgium-based cabin crew led by the CTC Union.
The workers took their case to the highest court in Europe to argue for better employment conditions for Ryanair cabin crew. At present, the airline’s workers are employed under Irish Contracts of Employment where the low-cost airline is based. But Irish employment law is generally regarded as giving workers fewer rights.
In this case, the cabin crew and their union argued that because they work solely from a base in Belgium, their employment contracts should be written in accordance with Belgium law. They also said any disputes should be handled by a local court – the hope being that a Belgium contract and court would be more favourable to their needs than the Irish system.
Unfortunately, for the CTC union and its members, the court rejected their central request that a cabin crew’s home base should “be the sole determinant of what court jurisdiction can hear disputes on labour issues.”
Ryanair was quick to react to the judgement, saying that the “status quo” would remain and that all its employees would continue to be hired under Irish employment contracts. In its defence, the airline explained that Irish laws were based on EU directives which ensured a fair treatment of workers across all European Union members states.
The directives cover things like annual leave, maternity leave and sickness benefits – Ryanair said it complied with all these requirements under Irish law. But what Ryanair fails to mention is that many the European Directives are the bare minimum – many countries have employments laws which provide far more protection and rights to employees.
“We do not believe this “Mons” ruling will in any way alter our Irish contracts of employment or the union rights which all of our people enjoy under the protection of the Irish Constitution,” commented Ryanair’s Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson.
But Ryanair isn’t completely out of the woods on this matter – because the European Court of Justice has said cabin crew can be subject to the employment law of the country they are based in as part of an overall assessment by a local court.
Factors that need to be considered, include:
- Where the worker gets his or her instructions
- Where the goods or passengers are loaded and unloaded,
- Where the work tools are stored,
- Where the work is organised or performed and
- Where the worker returns to at the end of their duty
Ryanair could well be opening up a whole new can of worms here. Expect the CTC union and other Ryanair cabin crew across Europe to start approaching their local courts. The airline’s Irish employment contracts may have their days numbered.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.