Though it may be one Europe’s most popular airlines, Ryanair has been less than compassionate about the treatment of their employees, and now some are finally starting to speak out about their corporate mistreatment.
On September 28th, 40,000 passengers encountered a dreaded road bump in their travel plans as they arrived to the airport to find that their flight was canceled. And though their sighs of anguish were loud, the demands and the shouts from the pilots and cabin crews of Ryanair on strike were even louder.
The flight staff are striking for some of the usual reasons, such as improved wages and a higher amount of leave days. But in actuality, strikers are asking for more than just the ordinary, they are asking for fair legal and ethical treatment; things that are not usually asked at an average airline picket line.
“This is a textbook case of social dumping,” exclaims Ben Watkins, communication officer for the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF). According to Watkins, one of the main reasons why Ryanair workers are striking in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Italy is the fact that no matter where you are employed, you sign an Irish contract and must follow Irish labor standards.
Watkins explains that these “contracts should be based where they (employees) live” and that this “effects the distribution of their social security, health insurance, and mortgages.”. And because of the weaker social standards in Ireland, transport workers around the world are negatively affected while Ryanair reaps the benefits.
These low social standards are more than just complaints, they effect a workers self worth and with Ryanair, known as a company that offers little to no job security, workers very rarely speak out.
“Employees should not have to bargain for their rights,” said a Ryanair employee who asked to keep his identity anonymous. According to him, the company that he’s worked for for over 10 years, Ryanair, is merciless in firing workers who break their contract and speak out about what it’s actually like to work at the airline.
“There are no human resources,” he says, “it’s just a money making machine that takes advantage of its employees.”.
Among his grievances, he discussed the process of obtaining flight hours, which is the measurement of how pilots and crews are paid. “If I fly you to Dublin and the flight takes one and a half hours, but I am on the airplane docked for 3, I only get paid for the hour and a half.” he explained.
Of course beyond payment, how pilots are treated are much different than other airlines. “Ryanair has a lack of respect for their employees,” he exclaims. “ We don’t receive company discounts, we pay for our uniform, we pay for our own parking, I even have to pay for water on a flight that I’m flying.”.
According to the pilot regarding sick days, “you get 10 days a year, and you need a doctors note as proof. And even with the note they still bully you for taking days off… Ryanair can fool around with you as they please.”.
And though one might ask, ‘why not leave Ryanair?’, it’s not that simple. “If I found a new airline,” explained the angered employee, “it will take 4 to 5 months for me to change my employer.”. This is due to both Ryanair contracts and the training time necessary to learn how to operate within another airline, but the process is too long and too difficult for most.
“If they found out they would make more money transporting shovels,” he dismally explained, “they would fire us and hire shovels.”.
Yet, some progress has been made in the striking process. Due to the new-sudden lack of pilots and crews, 250 flights from the discount Irish airline have been canceled. Plus there is “Good news coming out of the commission,” explains ETF officer Watkins.
In Belgium, the EU ordered Ryanair to start to meet European rules, respecting where pilots live and giving them contracts accurate to their location.
“Through solidarity, workers are losing their fear,” explains Watkins. “At the ETF,” he exclaims, “we exist to fight for transport workers to have rights, it’s in our DNA.”
With continued striking from employees, and support from trade federations like the ETF, it’s quite possible that soon Ryanair might have to change from their dollar stretching ways, and treat their employees with the same standards that other airlines do, no matter the price of their ticket.
Ryanair did not respond to Euroscope’s request for comment on the treatment of their staff.