‘Ryanair case to spark lawsuits across Europe’

A Norwegian law suit against Ryanair for unfairly firing one of its cabin crew will "open the floodgates" to a rush of similar claims against against the Irish budget airline, the union leader behind the case has told The Local.

'Ryanair case to spark lawsuits across Europe'
Alessandra Cocca (left) - Cornelius Poppe / Scanpix NTB
Vegard Einan, from Norway's Parat union, said that a case launched on Monday by a Belgian union on behalf of six workers showed ex-Ryanair staff were no longer scared to battle their former employer. 
"I think the floodgates are now open," he said. "We have been contacted by cabin crew from Germany, from Holland, and from Spain, who have all asked for our help to get into contact with their national unions. So I would expect more of these case to be held in the future." 
Ryanair has until 16 September to appeal last month's decision by a Norwegian court that Alessandra Cocca, an Italian air hostess stationed in Norway, should be eligible to sue Ryanair for unfair dismissal in Norway, rather than in Ireland, where Ryanair claims she was employed. 
The former flight attendant, who compared her work agreement to a "slave contract", claims she was wrongly dismissed from her job while stationed at Rygge Airport in Norway.  
Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely, said the company would send the "bizarre" decision to appeal in Norway's Supreme Court. 
Norwegian law, he argued, should not apply to work done “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." 
Einan said he too hoped that their appeal was successful. 
"We really want it to go to the Supreme Court,"  "because this is a situation which has never been tried in Europe. This is the first time this has been tried in aviation, because aviation is a highly mobile business." 
He said Ryanair's business model rested on avoiding the higher tax rates and more generous employment rights its competitors were forced to give employees in countries like Norway, by claiming that all of its staff are stationed in Ireland. 
"It's more convenient and profitable for them if they can use Irish taxes and work contracts all over Europe," Einan said.
"Even if Norwegian Airlines and SAS were to have their employees work for free, the tax costs and employment costs would be higher than Ryanair pays today." 
He said that Ryanair staff had up until now been deterred from complaining by the threatening clauses in their contracts. 
"This is the first case in Europe where one of the employees of Ryanair dares to stand up against the company. That's because of the culture of threats that exists in Ryanair. The contracts are full of clauses saying if you tell journalists what it's like to work for Ryanair, we will sue you." 

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Ryanair settles landmark Norway ‘slave contract’ case with ex-stewardess

Ryanair has settled a landmark case with an ex-air stewardess in Norway who described the company's working conditions like being on a "slave contract".

Ryanair settles landmark Norway 'slave contract' case with ex-stewardess
Cocca's union says the settlement is a 'victory for all workers in Norway'. File picture: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

Ryanair has agreed to pay 570,000 kroner (€64,000) to a former stewardess who claimed she was wrongly dismissed, her union said Friday. She described Ryanair's working conditions as being on a “slave contract”.

The four-year-long case has received a lot of attention since the Italian stewardess Alessandra Cocca fought to have her case heard in Norway, where she was based and where employee protection is much stronger than in Ireland. It has been heard in Norwegian courts twice already.

“After two court rounds, we’re now ready to settle this issue,” Parat labour union lawyer Christen Horn said of the settlement arrangement which he said amounts to an equivalent of about three of Cocca’s annual salaries while at Ryanair.

Parat spokesman Vegard Einan said the settlement agreement was a ”victory for all workers in Norway”.

“A number of sectors, with the airline industry at the helm, are in the midst of becoming internationalised. In many areas, the free-flow of capital and labour is positive, but our mission, as a powerful union, is to protect the rights of workers based in Norway,” he was cited by news agency NTB as saying.

“This case has confirmed that that international companies which wish to operate in Norway cannot escape from their obligations, like Ryanair tried to in this case.” 

In a statement released to The Local, Ryanair said it rejected Parat's claims. 

“Ms Cocca (who began flying for Crewlink in April 2012) was dismissed in January 2013 by Crewlink during her probation, after being offloaded from a flight by the Captain for her failure to comply with key safety requirements. This incident was the last in a series of safety failures by this individual during her 10 month period of employment with Crewlink,” the airline said. 

“Crewlink settled this case, as the legal costs of the trial in the Norwegian courts would far exceed the settlement payment, a case which no longer has any relevance since Ryanair no longer operates any bases in Norway following the Oct ’16 closure of the Rygge base.”