Home News Ryanair loses Belgian sackingcase, told to pay damages

Ryanair loses Belgian sackingcase, told to pay damages

Published on 22/03/2005

22 March 2005

BRUSSELS – Budget airline Ryanair has been condemned by a Belgian court for sacking three flight attendants.

It was thought that the verdict could influence the debate at an EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday on cross-border workers’ rights.

Ryanair had claimed it was allowed to terminate the contracts of the three workers in accordance with Irish law which allows for a year’s trial.

The Irish company said Steve Dewilde, Anne Legros and Magali Warbecq were let go in April 2002 after a year “because they did not match the profile”.

However, on Monday, a worker’s tribunal in Charleroi ruled that the trio were illegally sacked because they were covered by Belgian law which limits trial periods to six months.

Although they all signed a contract in English at the company’s Dublin headquarters, which stated they were subject to Irish law, the tribunal concluded the employees were protected by Belgian employment legislation because they were based at Charleroi airport.

The tribunal ruled the workers had full job protection after six months and were entitled to Belgian employment benefits like holiday pay, transport costs, luncheon vouchers and paid overtime.

Ryanair must now pay compensation to the workers, along with holiday pay and overtime which it owed.

On Tuesday, Ryanair’s Benelux marketing manager David Gering said lawyers would study the judgment before the company decided whether to appeal.

Jacques Cleffe, a lawyer and professor at the University of Liege told La Libre Belgique: “For Ryanair, it’s Irish law that prevails, probably because it’s more favourable to the employer. The Charleroi judge hasn’t agreed with that argument and the Rome Convention completely backs him up.”

Applying the Rome Convention, the judge concluded that it didn’t matter that the flight attendants flew in planes registered in Ireland and spent their working days between different countries, because they started off the working day at Charleroi and returned later to Belgian soil.

Ryanair was unsuccessful in its bid to argue that the Charleroi court had no place in ruling on the contracts, which were drawn up in Dublin.

The ruling may boost the arguments of opponents to a new EU proposal – the ‘Bolkestein directive’ – which would allow certain EU service providers to apply their home country’s employment laws in other Union countries.

The 25 EU member states are to discuss whether the measure could make it easier for companies to operate across borders.

France and Germany have already argued that the new rules could see companies from countries with lower taxes and social security charges and fewer workers’ rights undercutting those with rules more favourable to workers.

But even if the proposal wins the day, the Ryanair judgment would still be unaffected since the new rules are not designed to apply to transport companies.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news