Ryanair rejects authorities’ order

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UPDATED: Norwegian aviation authorities (Luftfartstilsynet) haven’t found any major violations at low fare carrier Ryanair, despite charges from former cabin personnel that the Irish airline subjected them to “slave contracts.”  The authorities want more information from Ryanair and ordered modifications to employee contracts, but Ryanair officials spurned them.

Ryanair continues to generate turbulence in the Norwegian market where it's been trying to expand. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Ryanair still claims it’s subject only to Irish law, not Norwegian. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

“We have asked the airline to clarify some points around the employees’ work hours and time off,” Bjørn Erlandsen of Luftfartstilsynet told  Aftenposten. “If that’s in order, we don’t have any objections to the way Ryanair operates in Norway regarding working conditions and security for the employees.”

Ryanair officials later said they won’t make the modifications requested. “Since these are Irish contracts for folks who work in Ireland, they must follow Irish and EU rules, not Luftfartstilsynet’s,” a spokesman told news bureau NTB.

While the Norwegian authorities seemed to exonerate Ryanair, they stressed that pay levels and benefits were not addressed in the inspection because that’s beyond their mandate. Rather, they examined the status of more general employment, health and safety issues at Ryanair.

Harsh criticism
Ryanair came under harsh criticism earlier this year from Norwegian labour organizations and some politicians after two former flight attendants announced they were filing lawsuits over the terms of their working conditions and dismissals. The criticism went all the way to the Norwegian Parliament, and Norway’s Labour Party-led government was accused of being too passive in its regulation of Ryanair.

As flamboyant Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary staunchly defended his airline and in turn blasted the politicians, claiming Ryanair was subject only to Irish law, it emerged that inspections of Ryanair had fallen between the cracks, with various state ministries and agencies disagreeing over who was responsible. Inspection was finally promised by Luftfartstilsynet (Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority) in the wake of complaints and after Transport Minister Marit Arnstad called on emergency meeting to follow up on them.

The results of that inspection, for which Ryanair could prepare given all the publicity, were sent to Ryanair on Monday and being released publicly on Tuesday. The airline was said to be “systematic and adequate” in its systems for employment, health and safety issues, reported Aftenposten.no, but Ryanair was asked to include daily and weekly work time in its employees’ job contracts, along with the length of employees’ breaks. Most of the employees are technically hired through outside employment agencies, but Ryanair was urged to ensure that the agencies modify the contracts to get them in line with Norwegian law.

Employees ‘satisfied’
Ryanair employees based at Norway’s Rygge Airport south of Moss reportedly claimed they were satisfied with their jobs at Ryanair and wanted to keep them, while acknowledging that their contracts did not adequately ensure their rights.

Ryanair itself revealed that it has 179 employees attached to its base at Rygge, including 55 pilots and 124 cabin personnel. The airline has also placed six of its Boeing 737 aircraft at the Norwegian base.

The pilots were said to have individual and confidential agreements with the airline, working five days on and three days off, with payment tied to time they were airborne. Flight attendants’ pay was based on a fixed amount plus a percentage of sales on board. Their work schedules were said to be set 30 days in advance, but were subject to change based on the airline’s needs.

Parat, a Norwegian labour organization representing flight attendants, continued to call Ryanair a “versting” (the worst) among airlines, in terms of how it treats its employees. Other labour leaders also said that Ryanair’s employee contracts violate Norwegian law, and that Norwegian authorities need to put more pressure on Ryanair.

Ryanair sent out a press release on Tuesday saying the airline wasn’t surprised by the authorities’ report, but claiming that Irish, not Norwegian, law applies to their operations. Airline officials cited a recent court decision in Moss ruling that the flight attendants’ case should be tried in an Irish court since Ryanair is an Irish company with Irish-registered aircraft.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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