Ryanair & Danish Labour Court

Another clash with Ryanair in a Labour Court is on the horizon. On 20 May the Danish Labour Court is expected to take a decision on a growing conflict between the local aircrew trade unions and Ryanair. The airline, which established a first base in Copenhagen earlier this year, refused to negotiate a general labour agreement with both pilots and the cabin crew, based in Denmark. Ryanair has so far firmly rejected such an agreement and – in a familiar and predictable fashion – threatened to leave Denmark. Yet, many are unimpressed and insist that Ryanair should play by the rules, in this case the Danish rules.

Ryanair, for example, seems to not be enjoying the sympathy of former Danish Minister of Economy, who now is responsible for free and fair competition in Europe. In a recent article Danish press reports that the EU Commissioner Vestager "has entered into a direct clinch with Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary":

“There is room in Europe to fight for ones cause. We do not have bloody free liberal competition. We have a fair market in which we ensure order, and that is how I think it should be, says the EU Commissioner with a reference to the conflict between Ryanair and air crew. 

In addition, a campaign called ‘Heroes of the sky’ ('Luftens Helte'), started by the Danish trade union FPU, is gaining wide popularity among passengers and crew. Firm support for preserving the Danish employment model, based on trade union recognition, and ensuring decent working conditions for air crew is a message that is widely shared. 

Ryanair employment practices have recently come in the spotlight by the report on “Atypical Employment in Aviation”, which revealed that the airline is using unusual hiring schemes to drastically slash labour costs. The report found that half of Ryanair pilots are “atypically” employed with 28% being self-employed pilots, 19% working via an own (limited liability) company and 11% under a temporary work agency contract. 

The steadily growing criticism of Ryanair’s employment practices has done little so far to change the airline’s policy. Hopes are high, however, that with collective actions and court decisions will finally turn the tide. Keep an eye for the decision on 20 May.