MIAMI – Ryanair (FR) French flight crew has accused the carrier of blackmailing them into taking pay cuts or losing their jobs as the budget airline is imposing a 20% pay cut for flight crew and 10% for cabin staff.
The Irish airline, which warned that it could slash up to 3,000 jobs in Europe, told workers in France that it was imposing 20% cuts in pay for flight crews and 10% for attendants.
In addition, staff who already have legal minimum wages will have their hours reduced.
According to a report by The Guardian, the French crew members have accused FR of “redundancy blackmail” and behaving like cowboys.
“France isn’t the wild west,” Damien Mourgues, a cabin crew union representative, told AFP.
Reductions starting on July 1
According to classified documents acquired by French media, FR has written to workers proposing pay reductions to take effect from 1 July 2020. The lower salaries would be gradually increased over the next five years, so that the full current salaries of the flight crew would be paid by July 2025.
The reduction of pay for pilots is an average of 12% over five years, as FR has agreed to pay lower salaries to new pilots and co-pilots.
The Syndicat National des Pilots de Ligne confirmed that a maximum of five days had been given to respond to the ultimatum. If not, the company warned that it would have “no choice” but to lay off 29% of its pilots and 27% of its co-pilots in France.
The carrier also wrote to cabin crew leaders suggesting a 10% decrease in pay during the same five-year span and a decrease in their paid working time from 2,000 hours a year to 1,600 hours, meaning a loss of €308 (£274) a month for those receiving €1,539 a month.
The PNNC-FO flight attendant union said pay cuts would push the cabin crew below the minimum wage and called for “explanations to justify the expected loss of income” but said FR had not responded.
In addition, SPNNC-FO said that it had also been given five days to consent or face the discharge of 27 out of 160 French cabin crew.
3,000 Ryanair jobs lost until business recovers
The Guardian report states that FR has confirmed that it will have to lose up to 3,000 jobs and close certain bases in Europe until business recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. The company confirmed the proposed cuts in pay and said that it was in talks with French unions.
“The measures are reasonable and time limited and aimed at saving as many jobs as possible at a moment when all airlines in Europe are losing jobs to survive this unprecedented crisis,” Ryanair told RTL radio.
Last month, FR stated it blamed the “expected significant decline” in passenger traffic this year and accused European governments of distorting competition with “selected state aid doping” with €30b bailout packages for rival airlines.
Using COVID-19 as an excuse for wage cuts?
In response to the crisis, FR confirmed that it will not “request or receive” state aid, but instead looked to downsize the airline, cut jobs and close based in an attempt to ride out the storm; hence, these recent staff reductions.
Fiodor Rilov, a lawyer for SNPNC-FO, said Ryanair’s proposals were “unacceptable” and that the union would take legal action to force FR to “respect French law”.
“They can’t use the COVID crisis as an excuse to implement significant wage cuts and call into question all the guarantees staff have managed to wrest from difficult management. Ryanair has considerable reserves,” Rilov said.
Stéphane Salmon, an SPNNC-FO director at Ryanair, told AFP that the airline had sent a letter informing him of the planned reductions on May 15. He accused the airline of using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to reduce wages that are already the lowest in the industry.
Late refunds and unecessary measures on board fights
Michael O’Leary’s airline has recently been blasted on social media and in the press for being tardy at issuing refunds to many thousands of passengers whose flights were canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel bans.
Thus, just last week, the airline was declared the worst to reimburse passengers for flights canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, creating a controversy last month when it announced that passengers would have to ask to use the toilets when the carrier restarted its flights in July.