Ryanair loses in Norwegian court

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UPDATED: Irish low-fare airline Ryanair was handed a surprise defeat Wednesday by an appeals court in Norway, which ruled that a labour conflict with a former flight attendant must be tried in a Norwegian court, not in Ireland. Ryanair called the ruling “bizarre” and vowed an immediate appeal.

Flight attendant Allesandra Cocca has claimed she was wrongly dismissed from her job while stationed at Ryanair’s Norwegian based at the Rygge Airport south of Moss. Cocca revealed details of what it’s like to work for Ryanair – how new employees start off in debt to the airline because they’ve had to pay for their training and uniforms, for example, and then receive low base pay and few if any benefits. She likened her work agreement to a “slave contract,” much to the objections of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.

The alleged working conditions at Ryanair do not conform to Norway’s own strict labour regulations regarding pay and benefits such as sick leave, but Ryanair has argued that Norwegian law doesn’t apply to them. A company spokesman repeated that on Wednesday, calling the appeals court’s “inexplicable and unsound” because most of Cocca’s work took place “outside Norway, by an Italian citizen employed on an Irish contract by an Irish company subject to Irish law and who paid her taxes and fees in Ireland.”

Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Cocca’s salary was paid into an Irish bank account and that she spent her working hours on board Irish-registered aircraft, which by law is defined as Irish territory. “Clearly she worked in Ireland, not Norway,” according to Ryanair, which has used the same argument to avoid tougher labour laws in other countries in Europe.

Cocca, who has claimed that employees of Ryanair “have no rights,” was supported in her lawsuit against Ryanair by Norwegian labour organization Parat, which called the appeals court ruling “a fantastic victory, and the start of fair competition within European aviation.”

Ryanair had won at the lower court level and declared it would appeal to Norway’s Supreme Court, with Kiely saying the airline had “instructed its lawyers to immediately appeal this bizarre decision to the Norwegian Supreme Court.”

“I really hope they will,” claimed Vegard Einan of Parat, which also represents flight attendants at airlines competing against Ryanair. “Both Parat and Alessandra Cocca will be very glad to have this case heard by Norway’s highest court. Then we will certainly get an even stronger voice in the EU and the EU court.”

Others questioned whether Einan should be as “euphoric” as he said he was following Wednesday’s appeals court decision. Marie Nesvik at the University of Oslo has studied Ryanair’s case and its claims regarding in which country Ryanair’s employees on board its aircraft are actually based. She said she wasn’t surprised by the ruling from the Norwegian appeals court (Borgarting lagmannsrett) but noted that it only addressed the question of which country’s courts should handle the case.

“Another question is which country’s laws must be followed,” Nesvik told newspaper Dagsavisen on Thursday. That raises additional legal questions over interpretation of both Norwegian and European legal obligations, and whether Norwegian practice or Irish will ultimately prevail.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund


  1. Joan Villarroya Rafols says:

    It’s about time somebody (country) stops this type of dirty business from unscrupulus employers. The EU had a chance last year with the April 2012 Social Security new ruling on Social Security but in fact did nothing against the employers and certainly made it worst for employees whom find themselfs on modern slavery contracts

  2. The only one who really benefits from this way of taxation is MOL and the Irish tax office! Why should most people working for Ryanair as a contractor pay for the wellfare of the Irish people rather than the country they are living and working in……??? A complete con to say that by working on an Irish registered aircraft they are working Ireland. I presume as a Ryanair crew member is not paid for the pre-flight planning, 25 min turn around and post flight duties that strickly speaking they are not employed…. One big employment scam! Lets hope some one in Europe puts a stop to this!

    • Robert Neve says:

      And if say a Norwegian registered plane were to fly from London to LA with a crew member that lives in Copenhagen who would they pay tax to?

      • It is not about where they fly, the home base for the employee in question is/was Norway! So, you live/pay taxes etc there, and follow the double taxation rules etc. These are not consultancy contracts where you work in Ireland and just come out to Norway for 2 days do the work then fly back… and then go to another country… these are FULL TIME employees, living in Norway. Any normal EU labour law principle would not allow to qualify the cabin crew working 10+ hours/day 5 days/week with minimum 36 hours rest period end of the shift as “temporary” consulting? Would you? It is slavery like conditions with total disregard for health of employees and safety of passengers. Until the first plane crashes! OLeary will not loose his profits then, but people will loose lives…

        • Robert Neve says:

          Oh I see. So what you really want to see is Ryanair just not employee Norwegians. Any normal EU labour law? Ryanair want it tried under IRISH law. Ireland being a full and proper member of the EU is subject to EU law. Ergo if they broke EU labour law then they wouldn’t want it under Irish law would they? They are not breaking EU law. They are defying Norwegian unions. As for the plane crashing, you really don’t understand the low budget model. Low budget airlines are usually newer and in better condition than the others because they can not afford the slightest mechanical error getting in the way of quick turn arounds. Ryanair has actually one of the safest records in the sky. There are plenty of real reasons not to use them from their shitty customer service, the 100 gotchas set up to fine you or even just the fact you are treated like a cargo box. But a good working plane with a smooth operating crew is in their interest as much as yours.

          • 70% plane crashes and accidents are not because of plane/mechanical error, but because of human error – those happen when continuously fatigued, and on the 4-5am or 00-01am hours…. The RyA problem is – “smooth operating crew”. As for not employ Norwegians – no, that is not correct deduction = the right comment would have been “not have base in Norway”. And thanks, I too well understand the low cost model of Ryanair – a very typical red ocean model.. question of time & accidents until EU level safety rules will be improved. Flying on the minimum/maximum safety limits is not flying SAFE. There is a reason why these are minimum guarantees or maximum restrictions – for emergencies, the rest of operations – you would put safety first and do not plan/operate long term on min/max limits.

  3. john joseph foley says:

    Ryanair used this same practice all over Europe to EXPLOIT young people..Ryanair as an employer or so called agents,crewlink/ workforce international are cheating these new recruits on the hourly rate of pay SCAM..Time for all to Boycott this airline…Wrecking the lives of young people for profit is the Ryanair way..www.ryanairdontcarecrew.blogspot.com

    • not just the life of young people, there are a lot of 30+ (not as they are old) people with family, Ryanair is sinking lower and lower when it comes to treat employees fairly… they are pushing those people to their linits

      • john joseph foley says:

        I would have expected 30+ to have seen through the ”live the high
        life” Ryanair moto Kake.It is very sad and i would hope people would
        boycott this airline,not only for cheating crew out of their salary but
        like you said,pushing people to their limits which i am sad to say has
        lead to suicide…

  4. RichardEnnJohnson says:

    Not a fan of Ryanair, I hate flying with them and avoid it as much as I can afford to. That being said, here are my thoughts on this overblown Ryanair debate, I am numbering them to make it easier for those that disagree to be specific about how I’m wrong:

    1. Ryanair has thousands of people lining up to sign their “slave contracts”

    2. These people must be aware when signing the contract that they have to pay for their own uniforms and training, but they still sign.

    3. The Ryanair job must be the best option they have, otherwise they would take another job.

    4. If they can’t find any other job they will have to go on welfare.

    5. The poor economic condition of Europe is not Ryanair’s fault, as far as I’m aware.

    6. Forcing Ryanair to pay a certain wage level will result in higher costs, leading to higher fares and/or reduced profit and growth, resulting in fewer “slave contract jobs” available, thus forcing the aforementioned thousands of people to resort to their plan B (a worse job, or going on welfare).

    7. This has nothing to do with Norway, it was not a Norwegian contract that was signed.

    I don’t get what the big deal is with all this, isn’t it just about someone looking to get more money from her employer without any grounds for it? How am I wrong please?

    • you have to work for Ryanair to understand her, I am not taking her side..actually,… I do 🙂 the contract is not so black and white, you get to learn lot of things later on… you have to be an insider to really see how things are working there…

    • If you dont have a problem with Ryanair jumping around Europe to search for the most lax regulations to exploit, then why do you take issue with the employee shopping around for a favourable legislative climate in which to take on Ryanair.

      Live by the sword, die by the sword. It is completely fair.

      • RichardEnnJohnson says:

        She is certainly free to “shop around for a more favourable legislative climate”, I just don’t think she’ll get very far with it, since she didn’t sign a contract in Norway and she is not the employee of a company registered in Norway. She knew she was signing an Irish contract, with an Irish carrier, according to the Irish legislative climate.

        If she has highly sought-after skills then she can work her way into a Norwegian company like the rest of us had to do.

        • All fine and well and good. All I am saying is if Ryanair is free to do their best to exploit the system and find loopholes, then equally so is she. Period.

  5. too bad the expectations come to life after signing the contract…. why dont you work for less money as well, so others can benefit from it? I’m sure you dont like this version.. a good company can manage being profitable without making his employees suffer…what Ryanair does is nasty…there are other ways to keep the price low than lower the salaries for their staff…

    • Ok…so Ryanair are b#stards…and they don’t pay well…and the benefits are ‘not the best’? So don’t work there….
      I’ve taken many flights on Ryanair and I’m perfectly happy with the service…and…long may it continue!
      I’m especially pleased that a service now exists between Torp and Edinburgh that I hope to be using in the future….
      I note that in many countries…and in particlular NORWAY…it is expected that private companies exist to serve their employees…whereas…as a ‘customer’…I should be the priority. The service I recieve on Ryanair is no better or worse than on BA, KLM, SAS, Norwegian etc…..but the prices are much lower…and I’m very happy about that!
      I don’t beleive in ‘overpaying’ people…just to ‘be nice’…which is what has happened in Norway…becuase the costs are just passed on the consumer…which is why the cost of living here is ‘astronomical’…and the quality and choice is the worst in Europe…..

  6. Tom Just Olsen says:

    I never fly Ryanair. They are not difficult to avoid. Since they don’t fly from Gardermoen. Nor am I dependent on ‘so’ low prices to, mostly, British/Irish destinations.
    Nor do I fly Norwegian either, – which will soon die or bought up, anyway. I fly SAS, mostly, Blue1 (subsidiary of SAS) on Finland, and sometimes Singapore Airlines, since they cooperate with SAS on Copenhagen – Singapore route. Prices are competitive and I accumulate a fair amount of bonus point that I spend in long weekends to cities around in Europe. Or domestically here in Norway.
    I feel Ryanair takes the advantage of a Europe, Ireland in particular, in distress all too far. The first mean to fight poverty is to show solidarity.

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