Low-cost airline Ryanair threatens to dismiss 25% of its Belgium-based pilots. In a press statement, the Belgian Cockpit Association (BeCA), the professional organisation representing airline pilots in Belgium, denounces Ryanair’s unacceptable social practices and urges the airline to respect its obligations under the Belgian labour law and to become (finally!) a socially responsible company.
On Monday, the Christian trade union CNE/ACV announced that Ryanair wants to eliminate 30 cabin crew jobs in Belgium following the coronavirus crisis.
“After numerous letter exchanges between BeCA and Ryanair over the past weeks, it has become evident that discussions are in a dead-end. While the company is publicly complaining about the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis and the State aid granted to several of its competitors in Europe, its financial results and its operational prospects published last week look very promising. But its flying crew is still waiting for the regularisation of its unemployment situation and the respect of its most basic rights,” BeCA said in the press statement.
Several essential questions remain unanswered, despite BeCA’s repeated requests:
- In a letter sent to BeCA on 14 May 2020, Ryanair threatens to dismiss 25% of its pilots based in Belgium. In such a collective dismissal case, the Belgian law requires to start the so-called “Renault” procedure. This procedure essentially aims to preserve as many existing jobs as possible, via part-time work and/or economical unemployment, which perfectly covers for the temporary nature of the crisis for Ryanair and for the upcoming restart of its operations. Nothing has been launched by the company and Ryanair wilfully ignores our country’s labour law. BeCA, therefore, urges Ryanair to launch this process with no further delay.
- Furthermore, Ryanair takes advantage of the coronavirus crisis to engage in a type of unacceptable employment and working conditions blackmail. Pretending financial problems due to the temporary suspension of its operations, the company is unilaterally questioning the collective labour agreements signed in our country in 2018 and 2019. At the same time, during the presentation of its financial results to its shareholders on 18 May, Ryanair welcomed its good financial health and its strong cash balance that will allow them to “weather Covid-19 and emerge stronger when the crisis passes” and recognises that it is much better placed than its competitors to overcome the crisis. Moreover, some documents sent to BeCA clearly indicate that the hiring of crews is planned as soon as the recovery is confirmed, but at even lower salary scales than those that would be agreed upon in the coming weeks. We can even fear the arrival of “zero hour” contracts. BeCA hence demands that the company reveals now its operational and financial data and prospects for the coming months and years for its Belgian bases, in order to assess whether dismissal threats are justified.
- At several occasions, Ryanair has complained in the media about State aid (which it considers illegal) granted to its competitors. However, when these aids exist, the company refuses to use them or ignores them. Since its aircraft and crews are on the ground, Ryanair has still not properly filled in the documents necessary to allow its employees to get the temporary unemployment benefits, to which they are entitled to as contributors to Belgian social security. Thus, many of its Belgium-based employees have not received their unemployment allowance since the beginning of the crisis, despite our repeated requests. We therefore urge Ryanair to immediately proceed to the regularisation of its employees’ situation.
“The crisis that we are experiencing today is unprecedented,” BeCA acknowledges, “but this virus can in no way serve as an excuse to Ryanair to bypass the Belgian labour law and exert pressure in order to infringe the commitments it has taken as part of several collective labour agreements. It is high time that the airline becomes a socially responsible employer and respects its employees and their basic rights, not only its shareholders’ interests.”