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.”


Norwegian joins new European airline alliance

Budget airline Norwegian announced on Thursday that it will join the new alliance Airlines for Europe (A4E), which will see it collaborate with Irish budget carrier Ryanair and others.

Norwegian joins new European airline alliance
Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT / NTB scanpix
Other members of the alliance include Air France-KLM, EasyJet, IAG Group and Lufthansa group. 
“Norwegian has always believed in healthy competition among airlines to create more choice and lower fares for passengers. But we also firmly believe in an industry where low-cost and network carriers can unite to tackle the many issues we all face together,” Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos said.
“We are delighted to join Airlines for Europe to add our voice to the important debate about the huge challenges and opportunities our industry faces in the future,” he added.
Rumours had been circulating that Norwegian and Ryanair were working on a so-called feeder agreement in which Ryanair’s short-distance routes will be slotted in to Norwegian’s long-haul routes. 
“We have said that we are interested in cooperation with companies that can feed traffic into our long-distance routes, particularly at London Gatwick. Ryanair is an example of an operator that may be relevant for this,” Norwegian spokesman Lass Sandaker-Nielsen told Norwegian financial outlet E24.
The Irish Ryanair transported 7.5 million travellers in January, but the airline has no long-haul aircraft that can range across the Atlantic. Norwegian, meanwhile, has been steadily adding to its long-distance routes. 
The A4E group was launched last month and claims to account for more than half of Europe's passenger journeys. 
It was also announced on Thursday that Finnair would join the alliance. 
“Airlines for Europe is open for business and ready to represent the interests of all European airlines. We will grow our member base over the next months, uniting more European airlines to take forward changes that will increase our competitiveness and result in lower fares and more choice for passengers,” A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert, A4E’s Managing Director.
Just last week, Norwegian poked fun at Ryanair by getting involved in a minor political scandal in Denmark. Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen flew to Malaga on Ryanair despite the airline’s bitter battles with Danish unions and its lack of a collective bargaining agreement in the country. Rasmussen’s flight angered his political opponents but provided an opportunity for Norwegian to capitalize on the scandal with a cheeky ad aimed directly at the PM.
“You are always welcome on board with us, Lars. We have both a collective bargaining agreement and free wifi!” Norwegian’s Danish team posted on Facebook:

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Posted by Norwegian on Friday, February 19, 2016