Time is ticking for Ryanair, one of the leading LCCs in Europe. After recognising trade unions for the first time in its 32-year history, the airline hesitates to agree with its employee demands. Cabin crew across Europe urge Ryanair to adopt national employment laws for all workers, but carrier wants them to comply with Irish regulations. European unions representing cabin crew says that the carrier has time until 3rd of July to come up with a decision. Otherwise, Ryanair could break its own record for massive cancellations, as workers plan massive walkouts.

Threatening to steal Christmas last year, Ryanair cabin crew had issued an ultimatum – strike threats for 20th of December if the LCC doesn’t recognise trade unions. This was a risk that Michael O‘Leary couldn‘t ignore. After the airline messed up pilot rotas and in turn had to cancel some 20 000 flights last autumn, another loss at one of the most lucrative times of the year would have threatened to place the business in peril.

For the first time since its establishment, Ryanair has recognised unions, however, is having a hard time acknowledging their authority. On the 24th of April, union representatives from Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy met to discuss the discontent with long lasting Ryanair employment laws. Since its launch, all Ryanair members are employed by non-standard contracts that operate according to the national legislation of Ireland.

Based on international laws, Ryanair has no right to put all of their staff under Irish jurisdiction. Portuguese Labour Minister Jose Vieira da Silva has made it clear that while most Portuguese crews’ contracts were signed under Irish laws, the EU Treaty of Rome still guarantees worker rights under local legislation. 

This spring Portuguese pilot union SNPVAC was the first to protest against the transnational use of Irish jurisdiction that ignores parenthood rights and doctor-approved sick days. Also, SNPVAC protested against frustrating disciplinary processes used by the managers for not reaching in-flight sales objectives. Other pain points raised by the workers include expensive training, 12-hour shifts starting at 5 AM, not enough rest between working days and no food service for the crew.

However, these worrisome conditions are about to change. After Ryanair has recognised trade unions, the bizarre employment practises began to tremble. The 5 previously mentioned unions demand the airline to employ staff according to the national legislation of each of the countries it operates in and apply the same working conditions for all workers. Ryanair can refuse the demand, but unions threaten to mobilise at European level, halting flights for the rest summer. A possible strike only in Spain would disrupt around 115 thousand passengers.

“Being a low cost carrier doesn’t mean that you should save on employee benefits. Staff that is working for Ryanair manage one of the greatest passenger traffic numbers in Europe on a daily basis. We, as citizens of the richest economical community in the world, are also proud of its high moral standards and just like every other professional business in the region we support fair employment practises and hope that Ryanair will act upon their flawed enrolment processes. Now airline‘s crew can finally have their own voice. Represented by the Trade unions and fight for the basic employee rights that secure fair working conditions and pay, promote healthy work-life balance, ensure right to proper rest periods as well as clear career prospects. These conditions shouldn’t be counted as privileges, but requirement for safe and fluent flights that can only be achieved by happy and well-rested cabin crew. Mr. O’Leary should reconsider who gives the biggest value here,” says Marius Stonkus, the CEO of claim compensation company Skycop.