Dutch authorities have stepped in to prevent Ryanair from firing a group of pilots and cabin crew who refused to move to another work location outside of the Netherlands following the airline’s decision to close its Eindhoven base. Ryanair said last month it would dismiss the staff after they declined a “voluntary” relocation to bases in Eastern Europe and North Africa. Labour laws in the Netherlands require employers to seek permission from the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency before they can make staff redundant en mass.
Claiming the decision to close its Eindhoven base in the south of the Netherlands was due to poor financial performance, the airline came in for criticism following accusations the base was actually being closed in retaliation for strike action which affected Ryanair’s operations in a number of European countries last year.
The number of affected staff is a mere drop in the ocean compared to Ryanair’s total workforce – 16 pilots and 15 members of cabin crew were set to be axed – but critics believe the airline singled out Eindhoven as a way to send a message to disgruntled employees in other countries.
The Dutch government organisation, however, has rejected Ryanair’s current plan although has so far refused to provide further details. The agency reviews redundancy plans to not only ensure they comply with Dutch labour laws but also to verify that an employer has legal grounds to make staff redundant.
A spokesperson for the union that represents Ryanair’s Dutch crew said the mass redundancy had been rejected because the airline had failed to negotiate a severance package for affected employees. “Ryanair will have to talk to us,” said the FNV union’s Leen Van der List. “They will have to convince us of the absolute necessity to close the base.”
According to Reuters, a Dutch court said in a separate ruling that Ryanair had abused its powers as an employer to order crew to move abroad or face dismissal.
Meanwhile, Spanish cabin crew for the Dublin-based low-cost airline called off a strike which was due to be held on Tuesday so that negotiations could continue with management. Strike action scheduled for Thursday and Sunday is still on the cards should negotiations fail.
Spanish labour unions have been pressing Ryanair to offer its crew better pay and conditions. The long-running dispute has seen staff walkout in protest in several countries across Europe over the last 12-months. Ryanair has managed to negotiate collective labour agreements in Italy and Germany but the majority of the airline’s cabin crew aren’t currently covered by these improved contracts.