Ryanair to Face Select Committee Investigation Over Working Conditions
Ryanair will be investigated by two parliamentary committees after allegations about employee working conditions, including that the airline has been “trying to wriggle out” of paying its staff the national minimum wage./ the Guardian
Frank Field, who chairs the work and pensions committee, and Rachel Reeves, who chairs the business select committee, on Wednesday wrote to the airline’s boss, Michael O’Leary, to demand answers to a string of allegations raised by Ryanair’s staff.
The damaging claims come after Ryanair finally agreed to recognise pilot and cabin crew unions in order to avert a pre-Christmas strike.
“Sadly, it will not surprise me if the sorry picture painted here is true: a company that turned in £1.15bn profit last year squeezing its workers,” Field said. “People who work long, hard hours and have an important role in passenger safety, and yet apparently cannot count on receiving the national minimum wage – or even close to it.
“Ryanair once tried to make its passengers pay to use the loo – now they even make their workers pay to quit. As well as foisting a host of other miserly – and potentially unlawful – requirements on them.”
The letter to O’Leary sets out detailed allegations, including staff having to pay £25 a month for their uniform in the first year of employment and having a £175 “administration cost” taken from their salaries if they leave the company in the first 15 months of employment.
Reeves said: “These allegations of hours of unpaid work, of charges for uniforms, of fees being incurred to leave, suggest a company falling well short of its duty to the staff who help their planes get off the ground and who spend the flight attending to and serving its paying customers.
“Ryanair now need to provide answers on the fees and charges faced by cabin staff and set out how they ensure these staff are receiving the national minimum wage.”
Ryanair, which made a record £1.1bn of profit in the year to the end of March, said: “We will respond to the subcommittee in early January as requested, however the claims about cabin crew pay and working conditions are false.
“Ryanair cabin crew earn between €24,000 [£21,300] to €40,000, which is more than double the UK national minimum wage.”
The allegations come soon after crews were warned of disciplinary proceedingsfor missing sales targets on scratchcards, and staff at Italian bases were threatened with collective sanctions if any member joined a strike called last week.
Earlier this week the airline said it would recognise cabin crew and pilots unions for this first time in its 32-year history in an attempt to prevent damaging strikes across Europe over the next few days.
Not recognising unions was at the heart of O’Leary’s low-cost business model that helped transform a small Irish regional airline into Europe’s largest carrier by passenger numbers.
O’Leary has frequently dismissed pilots’ complaints and insisted on pay negotiations being conducted through company-controlled representative committees at individual bases. He was once quoted as saying he would rather cut off his own hand than recognise unions. However, a shortage of pilots led the airline to cancel thousands of flights earlier this year, shifting more power to staff.
“Recognising unions will be a significant change for Ryanair, but we have delivered radical change before,” O’Leary said in a statement. “We hope and expect that these structures can and will be agreed with our pilots early in the new year.”
The first meeting between company executives and a pilots union took place in Dublin on Tuesday.
Ryanair announced on Tuesday that it would also recognise cabin crew unions and meet them for the first time in the new year.
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