Belgium-based Ryanair staff to threaten strike

A view across a Ryanair 737 wing at sunset.
Bene Riobó, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Belgium-based Ryanair staff have threatened to go on strike over the holiday season if the airline keeps getting away with “flouting the laws,” say ACV Puls and CNE trade unions.

“Flouting the laws”

Both Christian unions have written an open letter to this effect to both the employment minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne and justice minister Vincent van Quickenborne, reports the French broadcasting service RTBF.

“Since it moved to Belgium, Ryanair has continued to flout the laws,” denounced ACV Puls permanent secretary Hans Elsen. He recognized that the situation had improved in 2018 after the first staff strikes, but pointed out that this occurred without assistance from public authorities.

The union official said that the low-cost company continued to disrespect the Belgian labor legislation and he lamented the lack of action from the authorities.

If services such as the national social security office (ONSS) attempt to do their job by recording infringements, judicial authorities do not follow up, regretted Didier Lebbe of the CNE, who denounced the situation as “completely incomprehensible”.

He referred to Ryanair’s recent decision to temporarily close its Brussels Airport base at Zaventem, offer employees work at the Charleroi airport, and subsequently decide to make them work blocks of a few days in other European bases. “This is perfectly illegal,” said the union permanent secretary.

“The monopoly exercised by the company must stop. Ryanair staff members are not pawns,” he insisted, pointing out that some were young parents who couldn’t easily work at a base outside of Belgium.

After Ryanair’s decision to leave Brussels Airport as a base, the Irish low-cost airline suggested the staff to work from Charleroi Brussels South Airport. “But Ryanair changed opinion and unilaterally decided it’s Brussels based staff now has to work in other European countries, completely illegal and against the Belgian law,” unionist Didier Lebbe said.

“The Belgian social inspection establish the infringements, but the court does not follow up on the cases. The end of the year is fast approaching, and if nothing changes at Ryanair or the government, there is a good chance that staff will strike,” Lebbe warned.

Known problems

The problems with Ryanair have apparently been known for a relatively long time. Ryanair has already threatened to leave Belgium completely in the summer, when the pilots have been conducting industrial walkouts for a couple of months before July.

The issue at hand, however, is slightly exaggerated, as the crew are unsatisfied with relatively minor issues, while they had a strike in April, which had a huge effect, as those strikes were because of poor working conditions, and the airline had already moved from the main Brussel airport to Charleroi.

In the summer, many pilots have also been on an intra-continental strike, as the pilots haven’t been able to hydrate themselves, partly because of the very fast turn-around time.

A Spanish union, USO, has commented then, saying that “the unions denounce the irregularities committed by Ryanair in the management of its personnel and the attacks on the rights of its workers such as the fact that the cabin crew continues to work without access to water onboard the plane.”

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