Business Irish

Sunday 23 October 2016

Ryanair hits back after Danes mull pulling plug on pensions

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen
Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen

Ryanair says there will be "plenty of buyers" willing to snap up shares that Denmark's biggest pension fund manager, ATP, said it might consider offloading because of concerns over the airline's labour practices.

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A spokesman for the fund told Danish newspaper 'Berlingske' that it holds a stake in the Irish airline via a fund managed by a third party.

The spokesman said ATP is now considering what to do with that investment, citing concerns about the ability of staff at the airline to organise under a union. While Ryanair doesn't prevent staff from joining a union, it does not negotiate with unions.

The ATP spokesman said that if there are repeated and deliberate violations of international conventions to which Denmark is a signatory, then the pension fund manager would leave its holding in Ryanair.

A decision is still a number of weeks away.

ATP is Denmark's largest pension fund and social security provider, with 50pc of all Danish pensioners relying on the state pension and ATP for their retirement income.

ATP has 4.9 million members and pays the ATP Livslang Pension to almost one million pensioners. At the end of 2014, its biggest direct equity stake was a €214m holding in Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk. Its tenth largest equity holding is a €80m stake in brewer Carlsberg.

Through an external fund, it's understood that ATP has a €3.3m stake in Ryanair, which has a market capitalisation of €16bn. The ATP stance is the latest assault on the Irish airline in Denmark. Last month, the mayor of Copenhagen banned 45,000 municipal employees from flying with Ryanair for work purposes.

The mayor, Frank Jensen, inset, said that this was as a result of the wages the airline pays its staff and what he said was the lack of a Danish collective bargaining agreement.

Ryanair said that it fully complies with all EU law. "Ryanair's pilots and cabin crew enjoy high pay, job security and already have a collective agreement with Ryanair," said a spokesman.

"All Ryanair pilots and cabin crew based at Copenhagen are well paid, with pilots earning up to €150,000 a year and cabin crew earning up to €35,000."

He added that all Ryanair flights in Copenhagen are handled by workers who are represented by Danish unions and covered by a collective agreement.

He dismissed ATP's concerns about the airline.

"There are plenty of buyers out there who would be only too happy to buy these shares, which have risen by 19pc since January 1 this year," he said.

Ryanair has been the focus of intense opposition in Denmark in recent months, and has filed a complaint with the European Commission over the Copenhagen mayor's refusal to allow the city's staff fly with the airline.

A number of other local municipalities in Denmark have also banned their staff from using Ryanair for work-related travel. On June 15, the Danish Labour Court is due to make a decision on whether or not Danish unions can initiate strike action against Ryanair at Copenhagen Airport.

The court has to determine whether or not Ryanair is subject to Danish labour laws.

Ryanair maintains that its staff are subject to Irish labour laws and Irish social taxes.

In March, the airline's first flight from Copenhagen to Dublin was blocked at the airport by up to 60 people protesting about its labour practices.

Separately, Ryanair said that it carried 9.5 million passengers in May, 16pc more than it did in May last year. Its load factor, or percentage of available seats filled, rose seven percentage points to 92pc.

Shares in the airline increased by 2.5pc by yesterday afternoon.

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