48 Belgium-based Ryanair pilots have decided to take the airline to court after their summer strikes have left management unhinged over their outcries about low wages and tough working conditions.
Ryanair has faced strikes from pilots and cabin crew all over Europe for not returning to their salaries to the one before the pandemic. When Covid-19 broke out and travel restrictions left airlines basically without business, many resorted to firing staff, but Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO decided to lower everyone’s salary, including his own, and keep everybody.
The pilots signed an agreement in 2020 to have their salaries reduced by 20% under the condition of having the pay brought back as soon as the crisis was going to end. The low cost airline now operates 15% more flights than before the pandemic, having turned a profit of €170 million in the first quarter of 2020, and O’Leary has recently increased his salary, without however doing the same for his employees.
The Belgian pilots have already struck twice this summer, but O’Leary simply threatened to leave the country in response. “If that’s your position, so be it. But then you will be on strike for a very long time”, he said in July. Moreover, Christian trade union CNE/ACV Puls says the pilots signed the 2020 agreement only because they were being threatened and blackmailed.
As the industrial actions proved unsuccessful, the pilots and the union are now taking the airline to the labour courts of Brussels and Charleroi, where Ryanair operates flights. They are asking for the salaries to be returned to pre-corona levels as well as adjusted to the increased cost of living.
The union also says that even during the pandemic the reduced wages were not paid correctly. “During this period, the pilots were on temporary unemployment. Ryanair had to pay a top-up for each day of unemployment. Without respecting the rules of the aviation sector, Ryanair however paid this top-up once a month, instead of every day”, explained Didier Lebbe and Hans Elsen. Therefor they are also asking for the airline to correctly pay the salaries for the past two years.