Strikes at Ryanair: the European Commission confirms that Belgian law applies to Belgian employees


The European Commission said on Wednesday that Belgian law applies to Ryanair employees based in Belgium. Its Social Affairs Commissioner, the Belgian Marianne Thyssen, has indeed responded by mail to the CNE union, which had questioned her at the end of July following threats by the Irish airline on the cabin crew that went on strike a few days earlier. The Christian union is now demanding that the EU executive take steps to enforce existing regulations on Ryanair.

On July 25th and 26th, the cabin crew of the low-cost airline went on strike in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The company reacted by sending a threatening letter to these workers. CNE then addressed Prime Minister Charles Michel, Employment Minister Kris Peeters, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commissioner for Employment Marianne Thyssen, asking them to react according to their responsibilities.

In a letter that press agency Belga has been able to consult, she recalls European legislation. “With regard to the applicable labour law, Article 8 of the Rome I Regulation (see text hereunder) gives the worker the protection of provisions which cannot be derogated from by agreement under the law of the country in which, or failing that, from of which the employee usually works (“usual place of work”)“, she underlines, in the name of Jean-Claude Juncker.

In her letter, the Commissioner also reminds the judgment of 14 September of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Questioned by the court of labour of Mons, the jurisdiction there considered that the workers of Ryanair can seize the justice of the country where they carry out the majority of their work services, even if their contract foresees that the Irish justice is competent for any dispute. In her view, it is necessary to take into account the “place where the worker usually performs his work“. And this place is determined from a series of indicators which include the “base of assignment” mentioned in the contract of employment and the place where the planes are parked.

The Christian union welcomes these reminders of the Regulation by the European Commission but regrets that this letter does not invite Ryanair to respect it. Its permanent secretary Didier Lebbe, therefore, asks the Commission to “intervene and play its role of authority“.

It’s very nice to remind the law, but how can it be enforced now?” asks the head of CNE. The latter also points to the fact that Marianne Thyssen has copied Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, on her letter, but without questioning him about the case.

What good is it to sit around the table with Ryanair”, responds the Christian union. “When Ryanair management is around the table, it tells us that it will never apply the regulations in force! “.

At the call of the CNE and the Belgian Cockpit Association (BeCA), pilots based in Belgium will strike on Friday. They will organise a sit-in at Charleroi airport from 05:30 to 11:00 to express their dissatisfaction. Similar strikes will take place in Sweden, Ireland, The Netherlands and Germany.


Article 8 of EC Regulation 593/2008

Individual employment contracts

  1. An individual employment contract shall be governed by the law chosen by the parties in accordance with Article 3. Such a choice of law may not, however, have the result of depriving the employee of the protection afforded to him by provisions that cannot be derogated from by agreement under the law that, in the absence of choice, would have been applicable pursuant to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of this Article.
  2. To the extent that the law applicable to the individual employment contract has not been chosen by the parties, the contract shall be governed by the law of the country in which or, failing that, from which the employee habitually carries out his work in performance of the contract. The country where the work is habitually carried out shall not be deemed to have changed if he is temporarily employed in another country.
  3. Where the law applicable cannot be determined pursuant to paragraph 2, the contract shall be governed by the law of the country where the place of business through which the employee was engaged is situated.
  4. Where it appears from the circumstances as a whole that the contract is more closely connected with a country other than that indicated in paragraphs 2 or 3, the law of that other country shall apply.


  1. Maybe the unions should try to understand the difference between the executive and the judicial branch of the authorities. If a company doesn’t abide by the laws, the courts will have to look into that. Although, nowadays populist leaders want to have us believe otherwise, it’s not the role of the government or a president for that matter to enforce certain popular behavior.


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