Ryanair has been accused of employing cabin crew on “slave contracts” in Norway.
The accusation by a Norwegian trade union follows a claim by two former cabin crew members who are suing Ryanair over their dismissal.
Norway’s Parat union described the flight attendants’ terms and conditions as “a contract of slavery”. The crew allege there was a “culture of fear” at the carrier.
Ryanair hit back by accusing its former crew members of making “false claims” and the union of trying to distract attention from its role in negotiating job cuts at SAS Scandinavian Airlines.
The former crew members released details of their contracts, causing a public furore in Norway and leading to calls for a boycott of the airline.
Ryanair leased the crews from agencies which employ the staff on Irish contracts despite them being based at Rygge airport outside Oslo.
Norwegian media reported the contracts included the following provisions:
- Employees had to pay for training and uniforms
- Employment could be terminated at any time, with from 0-14 days’ notice.
- Crew were required to pay a €200 fee to resign in the first 15 months of the contract.
- Hourly pay was set at the equivalent of $21 an hour in flight, with no extra pay for weekends or holidays.
- There was no sick pay.
- Crew were entitled to 20 days holiday, booked well in advance but subject to cancellation if Ryanair required staff to work.
- Employees were required to take at least four weeks’ unpaid leave a year.
- Crew were required to be on standby for work without payment and be able to report within an hour.
- Participation in union action was grounds for immediate dismissal.
- Contract terms were to remain confidential, with violation grounds for dismissal.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary dismissed the claims and described the former flight attendants as “unsuccessful and dismissed”.
He told the Norwegian press: “They just invented these false claims some six months after they were dismissed.” O’Leary argued no one was forced to work for Ryanair.
He said there was a waiting list for jobs and suggested the crew were “supported by labour organisations in the process of agreeing thousands of job cuts and 17% pay cuts in SAS”.
O’Leary added: “We’re an Irish airline operating Irish-regulated aircraft. Our employees are employed under Irish contracts.”
However, following questions in parliament, Norway’s foreign minister Espen Bart Eide was quoted on Friday saying he would not fly on Ryanair until the issues were resolved.
Questioned by MPs, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said: “The government fights social dumping, but it’s extra complicated with the airline industry.”