A couple of weeks ago, Ryanair faced critism (no surprise there you might say) for an incident in which the airline was accused of mistreating its cabin crew (again, probably not too much of a surprise). The allegations came about after a photo emerged of several cabin crew from the low-cost Irish airline being forced to sleep on the floor of an airport office after Autumn storms in Europe forced several flights to divert to Malaga in Spain.
The Portuguese cabin crew seen in the photo had to spend the night in Malaga airport before returning to the Lisbon base the following morning. Ryanair claimed all the hotels in the area were fully booked because of a local public holiday and as a result, the crew spent a short time in the office before being moved to a “VIP suite”.
The airline was quick to dismiss the allegations and called the photo “clearly staged” – several days later, Ryanair even went so far as to release CCTV images from inside the office to prove its point. The video, which the airline released on its official Twitter account did indeed show several crew members apparently staging the photo.
A Twitter storm ensued with critics of the airline claiming that from the outset the photo was obviously staged but it had been done to illustrate the conditions in which the crew had been forced to spend the night. There were, of course, obvious questions as to whether it was appropriate for the crew to create a fake photo in order to make their point.
It didn’t take long for Ryanair to suspend the cabin crew and then summon them to its head office in Dublin to start disciplinary procedures. And now we’ve learned that all the cabin crew involved in the incident have been dismissed without notice by the airline.
The decision is likely to create yet more animosity amongst Ryanair’s cabin crew community towards the company. The airline has been battling a year of industrial strife which has seen crew walk out on strike in a number of European countries over allegations of poor working conditions, low pay and “social dumping”.
In recent weeks, the situation has slightly improved with Ryanair successfully negotiating collective labour agreements with unions representing the airline’s cabin crew in several countries including Italy – although labour relations remain fraught.
The situation has got so bad that some shareholders have called on Ryanair’s longtime chairman, David Bonderman to step down and now a U.S.-based shareholder plans to sue the company over claims it overstated its ability to manage industrial relations.
The Alabama pension fund has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan alleging Ryanair misled shareholders, calling its employment contracts “indsutry leading”.
“Unbeknownst to investors, the company’s historical profit growth was built on an undisclosed and unsustainable foundation of worker exploitation and employee turnover,” the complaint reads.
Ryanair, however, calls the complaint “false” and “doomed to fail”. In reality, the airline claims most of the disruptions caused to its operations this year are down to air traffic control problems and weather-related delays.