Ryanair lost an EU court battle on Thursday in which the airline had sought to continue forcing cabin crew based outside Ireland to take their disputes to Irish courts, in a case with implications across the low-cost airline sector.
Ryanair said a ruling by the European Court of Justice that air crew can bring proceedings before courts in the place where they perform their duties would not impact its cost base.
Cabin crew based at Ryanair’s Charleroi airport base in Belgium challenged the airline in a local court, but Ryanair argued that their Irish contracts should be governed by Irish courts.
The Irish airline said this European Court of Justice decision does not change the status quo of Irish Contracts of Employment for Ryanair crew based across Europe. Ryanair will continue to employ its crew on Irish contracts of employment, and this decision only updates the criteria for assessing the jurisdiction of national courts to hear legal cases locally and does not alter the law applicable to the contract.
Eddie Wilson, Ryanair’s Chief People Officer, said:
“We welcome this “Mons” case ruling which upholds the existing EU rules on the jurisdiction of Member States national courts, and accepts Ryanair’s position that just one criteria (i.e. basing) cannot unilaterally determine jurisdiction. Maintaining broad assessment criteria ensures that the most appropriate jurisdiction should apply in cases involving international transport workers rather than a sole criterion approach, which would narrow the assessment and restrict movement and flexibility with a myriad of regulations and different crews throughout Europe.
“We do not believe this “Mons” ruling will in any way alter our Irish contracts of employment or the union rights which all of our people enjoy under the protection of the Irish Constitution.”
“This ruling puts the convenient fantasy that aircraft registered in Ireland are somehow an airline’s own ‘private kingdom’, to the flame”, says European Cockpit Association Vice-President Jon Horne. “This argument has been wrongly used to deny mobile workers all over Europe their fundamental rights and made them feel like subjects, not employees. The Court not only clearly states that a worker’s home base is their place of employment, but – in addition – that it is the real home base that matters, not an invention by some crafty employers.”
“This Court ruling has repercussions well beyond Ryanair, says Philip von Schöppenthau, Secretary General of the European Cockpit Association. “There are many airlines out there that make use of highly questionable employment set-ups and doubtful contractual jurisdiction clauses. This EU-wide ruling makes it now possible to challenge such set-ups and will help plug the legal loopholes that allowed too many airlines to get away with practices that need to be examined and challenged by the courts.”