Ryanair has fired all its pilots and cabin crew members based in the Netherlands after they did not agree to be ‘voluntarily’ relocated to bases as far-flung as Morocco and Belarus.
The Irish low-cost airline officially filed for the collective firing of all personnel at the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), an autonomous government administrative authority which handles unemployment benefits.
Ryanair cites bad economic results for their Dutch base at Eindhoven, which was closed on 5th November, as the reason for the mass-dismissal.
Unions VNV and FNV, which represent the pilots and flight attendants respectively, said they will appeal the mass-firing with the government body.
Chairman Joost van Doesburg of pilot union VNV said he is surprised that the UWV accepted Ryanair’s application to fire all of its employees in the first place.
He said that Ryanair would need to come forward with proof of the bad economic numbers for the firing of all the employees to be accepted, which according to him the low-cost airline has not yet done.
According to the unions, Ryanair decided to close its Eindhoven base and get rid of its Netherlands-based employees as a retaliatory measure after pilots went on strike in early October for two days.
Sixteen angry Ryanair pilots even started a court case against the airline in the Southern Dutch city of Den Bosch, asking the judge to ban the airline from transferring them to bases in far-flung cities in North Africa and Eastern Europe.
A VNV union spokesman said: ‘The goal was not higher wages or more days off, but a change in culture and a guarantee of basic rights for employees in accordance with Dutch standards.
‘Ryanair has to stop with the divide-and-conquer culture, and has to respect employee’s fundamental rights. However, our actions have made Ryanair decide to close its Eindhoven base.
‘That means that the pilots are being forced to move to southern or eastern Europe or even to North Africa.
According to the union, while it means that most Ryanair flights to and from Eindhoven will not cease, they will however be covered by aeroplanes and cabin crew stationed at bases in countries with less restrictive labour laws.
A pilot told the Dutch court: ‘Ryanair is a brilliantly organised dictatorship. As long as you keep your mouth shut it is alright. However, when you cross the line you have to be careful.’
The court ruled in November in favour of the pilots, saying they are not obliged to accept a move abroad and that Ryanair has to keep paying their salaries.
However, the low-cost airline also claimed victory after the case, sending a letter just a few days after the ruling giving them four days to decide whether to be voluntarily relocated or fired.
According to the VNV, Ryanair is ‘searching for employees for their new bases, for example in Minsk (capital of Belarus)’.
Ryanair employees said that the company is also pushing them to accept a transfer to Ryanair hubs in Morocco, Romania, Bulgaria or in the Azores located in the middle of the Atlantic, 850 miles from the Portuguese coast.
Asmae Hajjari, head of the FNV Aviation Union which represents the flight attendants, said that ‘Ryanair has no respect for their employees’ as they give zero financial support or assistance to deal with the situation.
Hajjari said: ‘The cabin crew has rental agreements, insurances, subscriptions and other arrangements which they cannot cancel in two and a half weeks.’
Besides the 16 pilots, 98 cabin crew members are affected by Ryanair’s decision to fire all Netherlands-based personnel.
Ryanair spokesman Yann Delomez previously said that their pilots ‘have been offered jobs elsewhere in the network’.
Delomez told Central European News: ‘If they choose not to transfer, then we will respect their wishes, but there will be no jobs remaining at Eindhoven.’