Unions resist Ryanair expansion

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Europe’s biggest low-fare airline, Ryanair of Ireland, wants to start flying domestic routes within Norway but needs agreements to do so and faces strong opposition from Norwegian labour unions. Labour leaders claim that working conditions at Ryanair are so poor that the airline shouldn’t be allowed to fly within Norway.

Ryanair already flies to and from the airports at Moss, Sandefjord and Haugesund in Norway, but now wants to start offering domestic routes as well. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Ryanair already flies to and from the airports at Moss, Sandefjord and Haugesund in Norway, but now wants to start offering domestic routes as well. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“The main concern against Ryanair is that its employees aren’t allowed to organize (in labour unions) and that the company doesn’t allow for collective bargaining,” Tore Eugen Kvalheim, leader of the large YS labour federation, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday. “We are not well-served if Ryanair is allowed to treat its employees as it does within Norwegian airspace.”

Vegard Einan of Parat, the largest labour federation for aviation workers in Norway, cited “intolerably low pay” for Ryanair employees as a consequence of the airline’s labour policies. “Cabin crew in the company get paid less than NOK 8,000 (USD 1,400) a month,” Einan claimed. “That’s less than the lowest pay given a pensionist.”

Ryanair already offers international routes from two privately owned Norwegian airports in Moss and Sandefjord plus state-owned Haugesund, with Moss’ Rygge airport and Sandefjord’s Torp airport billed as serving Oslo despite their distance from the Norwegian capital. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary told Norwegian website E24 this week that the airline now wants to break into Norway’s domestic market within the next year or two.

O’Leary said Ryanair has been negotiating with airports owned by state aviation agency Avinor in western and northern Norway, but as yet hadn’t agreed on price. The airline reportedly plans to offer fares as low as NOK 200 (EUR 20-30) or roughly half of lowest fares offered by domestic carriers such as Widerøe, SAS and Norwegian. O’Leary claimed that current domestic fares in Norway were “very high.”

Einan said the low fares, along with what he called Ryanair’s ability to avoid the business costs borne by other Norwegian airlines, are the reason employees are paid so poorly. He and Kvalheim also claimed that Ryanair doesn’t respect Norwegian regulations regarding workplace conditions, taxes and fees.

A Ryanair spokesman has earlier responded to union boycotts in Norway by saying that Ryanair employees are free to organize “but when it comes to pay and work agreements, we want to deal directly with the individual.”

A spokesman for Avinor confirmed that the state agency is conducting talks with Ryanair but wouldn’t reveal their content. He said it wasn’t possible for Avinor to offer any rebates to Ryanair or reduce a long string of standard fees set by the state transport ministry.

Ryanair doesn’t need any special approval from Norwegian authorities to start up service, since it has an Air Operators Certificate issued in Ireland, which is part of the EU. That gives Ryanair license to operate commercial flights within the EU and countries within the European Free Trade Association, through which Norway has access to EU markets.

Officials at Norwegian Air and SAS said they weren’t surprised Ryanair was interested in expanding in Norway, especially on routes from Bergen and Trondheim. They claimed they were ready to meet any competition from Ryanair.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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