Unions representing cabin crew for Ryanair have promised the biggest strike ever in the airline’s history, to take place on 28 September. The decision follows a meeting of unions representing staff in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands, which took place in Rome on Friday. Unions are calling for the company to drop its policy of subjecting all staff to Irish social laws, regardless of where they work.
In normal circumstances, national social laws offer staff better protection. Irish social laws allow the company to act as a sort of social tax haven, while staff are treated as Irish employees although they may never have set foot in the Republic.
The decision of the cabin personnel to strike on 28 September – a Friday – should be confirmed by a second meeting of unions later this week in Brussels. The possibility of the pilots joining the action remains open, but the current plan would already have a widespread effect.
In response to union threats, the company has issued a threat of its own: to move all employment, notionally at least, to Poland, where social protections for workers are even lower than in Ireland. Ryanair has no connection at all with Poland, but EU law currently allows companies freedom of movement to shop around for the best environment – a circumstance opposed by a number of member states, including Belgium, where charges, and benefits, are higher.