A Dutch court has ordered Ryanair to pay eight pilots a total of nearly €4 million in compensation after creating an “unworkable situation” when the low-cost airline decided to close a crew base in Eindhoven. In March, the Dutch labour authority (UWV) ruled that Ryanair did not have the right to fire pilots and cabin crew who were based in Eindhoven after they refused to move to a new base following the closure.
Ryanair claimed it was forced to close its Eindhoven base for economic reasons but the decision came just days after the 16 pilots and 15 cabin crew at the base had staged a 24-hour strike in protest at allegations of low pay and poor working conditions. The workers claimed Ryanair deliberately targeted the Eindhoven base in retaliation at the strike and as a way to intimidate staff at other bases throughout Europe.
In this case, Ryanair offered eight of the pilots the choice of 6 others bases in Europe or a job as a so-called ‘mobile pilot’ in which their base would change every three months. They were given just 3 days to make a decision but when the pilots launched a legal dispute, Ryanair decided to make them ‘mobile pilots’ without their permission.
At the start of November, a Dutch judge initially ruled that Ryanair couldn’t transfer the pilots without their permission so the airline submitted an application for collective dismissal. But the UWV rejected Ryanair’s application, ruling that it was “insufficiently plausible that the closure of the base in Eindhoven was motivated by economic circumstances.”
At this point, the pilots launched a fresh court case arguing that Ryanair couldn’t expect them to continue working for the airline. They actually wanted their contracts terminated but asked the court for €1 million each in compensation.
The Brabant court agreed that their contracts should be terminated and that they were entitled to compensation, with the judge ruling that Ryanair’s reason for closing the Eindhoven base was “unbelievable”. Six of the pilots will receive €350,000 in compensation, while a seventh will receive €400,000 because the court believes it will be difficult for him to find a comparable job. The eighth pilot was awarded €425,000 because he is unlikely to find another job as a commander.
Ryanair has also been ordered to pay transition fees of between €33,000 and €84,000.
Since last year’s widespread industrial dispute, over 80% of Ryanair’s cabin crew and pilot communities now have union recognition agreements and more than half have won some form of collective bargaining agreement or compliance with local laws.
Unions, though, claim that Ryanair is still engaging in “union busting” activity and argue a lot more still needs to be done to make Ryanair a fair employer.