The Romanian Supreme Court has ruled against Hungary-based Wizz Air, saying the low-cost airline did discriminate against workers who tried to form a trade union. The case stems back to 2014 when the airline dismissed 19 employees shortly after they told their bosses that they had formed a branch of the Aerolimit Professional Trade Union for Wizz Air staffers.
Wizz Air lost an earlier ruling but decided to appeal the case to Romania’s highest court. In 2015, the Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination ruled Wizz Air’s actions was not only discriminatory but that the discrimination had the intention to stop employees forming a union which they were legally entitled to do.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said Wizz Air’s “punitive actions” had “violated international norms on freedom of association.” The ITF drew similarities between the Wizz Air case and the fight for employees at other low-cost airlines to win union representation – most notably at Europe’s largest LCC, Ryanair.
In a statement, Wizz Air said it was “disappointed” with the court’s decision but would obviously comply with the ruling.
“While Wizz Air has no representative unions, Wizz Air prides itself on direct and open communication between colleagues and senior management which is a foundation of the unique, strong team culture at the airline,” the airline told us.
A spokesperson told us an in-house ‘WIZZ People Council’ enabled “effective two-way communication between the management and employees” and that senior managers spent a significant amount of time seeking feedback from staff.
“For over 15 years, this direct communication and a co-operative culture has contributed to Wizz Air’s rapid and profitable growth while making it the airline an employer of choice,” a spokesperson explained. A 2017, employee feedback survey found 85% of workers were satisfied in their jobs at Wizz Air.
Some low-cost carriers have been resistant to allowing union representation due to concerns that costs will be pushed higher.
So-called “social issues” in the aviation industry have become a hot topic of late and are currently being investigated by the Mobility and Transport Directorate of the European Commission. Along with denying access to trade unions, some airlines have come under fire for other controversial employment policies that have sometimes been described as “social dumping”.