A long-running dispute that set low-cost airline Ryanair against its own employees, the Belgian government and the EU Commission has been settled. Ryanair kept costs down for passengers by its tactic of using Charleroi (later christened Brussels South) for its flights, thus benefiting from lower charges as well as generous subsidies from the Walloon region. That tactic was repeated in other countries.
Ryanair also made savings by employing its staff – pilots and cabin crew – as Irish employees, regardless of their nationality or whether they ever set foot in Ireland for business or pleasure. That allowed Ryanair – an Irish company – to benefit from the Republic’s more generous conditions on social charges for employers.
Staff revolted against the practice, because from their point of view, Irish employment legislation offers less protection. In recent months, both pilots and cabin crew have gone on strike in Belgium as well as other countries where Ryanair operates.
Belgium is not the first country to come to an agreement with the airline, but it is the first where the agreement covers pilots and cabin crew together. According to the agreement, staff employed in Belgium will from 31 January 2019 come under the remit of Belgian employment law.
Between then and now, unions explained, discussions will take place on the detail of related matters including pay and working conditions.
“This is a truly historic agreement,” said Hans Elsen, secretary of the Christian union LBC. “For the first time, Ryanair in Belgium has signed a legally binding document on this question. Now we can begin negotiations on staff working conditions.” The agreement, unions said, made it unlikely there would be further strikes in the near future.
Despite its problems with union actions in several countries, Ryanair made a profit of €1.2 billion in the first half of this year.