Trade union readies to rumble with Ryanair

3F threatens to blockade Ryanair if budget airline does not accept labour laws

Irish discount airline Ryanair is on a collision course with Danish trade unions over employment practices at the company’s new Billund Airport headquarters.

The new Ryanair regional headquarters, which is scheduled to open for business on March 23, will employ as many as 100 new permanently stationed employees. But those employees will not be guaranteed the same workers’ rights as other Billund Airport employees.


The Danish trade union 3F, which represents the other Billund Airport employees, says that is unacceptable and is insisting that the Irish company negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with a Danish trade union to define fair terms for the airline's employees at Billund.


Ryanair refuses.


“Since all our workers are employed on Irish air territory and under Irish contracts, we have no interest in negotiating with the Irish, the Danes or any trade union,” Ryanair spokesperson Stephen McNamara told Politiken newspaper in an email.


3F did not take nicely to that message.


Noting that Ryanair had been known to use shell companies to hire workers under shoddy employment terms, Brian Lyst, 3F's representative for the Varde-Billund area, told Politiken, "We don’t accept employment under those terms. If it manages to slip in here, it will spread itself and undercut working conditions in other areas."


For years the airline has been in legal conflicts with labour unions in Ireland and other EU countries for refusing to offer pilots and cabin crew permanent employment contracts. In one notorious case an Irish pilots’ union took its case against the company as far as the Irish supreme court, before finally losing the battle. The International Transport Workers Federation still runs a campaign and website called “Ryan-be-fair” to pressure Ryanair to improve conditions for workers.


Lyst said 3F was ready to flex its muscle to make the cost-cutting airline comply with Danish labour rules at its new Billund headquarters.


“We have entirely legal means at our disposal. We can fight them through our various organisations and simply ensure that they can't refuel, get provisions or have their baggage handled.”


Workers at other Danish airports besides Billund would support a blockade against Ryanair if it came that far, Lyst added.


Responses to the showdown between the airline and the union were mixed on the online professional pilots’ network


“Good job, Danes. Why didn’t [the Norwegian trade union] Parat do the same thing at Rygge [Airport, near Oslo]? Ryanair is a terrible company that ruins things for everyone working in the airline industry,” wrote one commenter using the handle ‘Diper’.


Another, ‘Slip and turn’, wrote: “Good luck to the Danish Unions. What people outside Denmark almost always fail to appreciate is that the unions are an essential part of Danish society which are acknowledged by Danes generally as a force for good."


“Ryanair on the other hand is a notoriously belligerent citizen wherever it goes and commands respect only from the minorities who believe that’s an acceptable way to behave in business,” ‘Slip and turn’ added.


But another network member sided with the airline. “Good luck to Ryanair with the new base in Denmark,” wrote ‘Boeingflyer’.

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