Kris Peeters, the Belgian Federal minister in charge of employment, has asked Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, to avoid a major social conflict between the staff and the executive management.
The remark Peeters made on Twitter on Monday refers directly to the strike the pilots and flight attendants started in July. More than 600 flights were cancelled last month across Europe.
Although the right to strike is supposed to be a fundamental right in most Western countries, the executive management sent a special warning last week to the strikers: if the employees go on strike again, they might be sacked for gross misconduct without any compensation.
“The right of strike is clear: the employees cannot be sacked on the basis of the participation to a strike,” Peeters told De Morgen, before pointing out the fact that the strikers have planned the action in a regular way.
There are two sides of the coin. Consumers of course complain about the disruptions and the cancellations, which could make their holidays more complicated. And the EU rules on compensation might be “smartly” interpreted by the airlines in order to avoid any compensation for those who have missed their flights and connections.
The other side of the coin directly refers to the social conditions that apply to the employees. For years and years, the unions have called the EU and national institutions to take measures to fight against the social model Ryanair has been implementing. The pilots and flight attendants are the subject of atypical work conditions. They might be asked to be freelancers and work on behalf of the company.
Pilots sent an open letter to both, Violeta Bulc, EU commissioner in charge of transport, and Marianne Thyssen, EU commissioner in charge of social affairs, where they reiterate their call to change the legislation.
Although the European and Belgian consumers love the low-cost companies in many sectors, it’s still worth having a look at all the cards on the table.