A PILOT has told an Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing how Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary became aggressive and refused to reveal details of pay and conditions at the airline, indicating he would never allow that information to fall into the hands of the pilots' representative body, IALPA.
Former Ryanair pilot Patrick Burns, originally from Co Louth, went all the way to the airline's chief executive to appeal a decision to move him from his base in Marseille in the south of France to the remote airport of Kaunas in Lithuania – some 1,800km away.
Mr Burns (39) claims he was unfairly dismissed from his €124,000-a-year job and was assigned the post in Kaunas as punishment for failing to fill out a transfer request form when Ryanair closed its Marseille base following a row with the French government over tax in October 2010.
Giving evidence at the tribunal in Dublin yesterday, Mr Burns told how he had initiated a grievance procedure and this was rejected by management. He then appealed that decision to Mr O'Leary.
At a meeting at Ryanair head office in Dublin in March 2011, Mr O'Leary asked the pilot why he had not put in for a transfer to another base when it was reported in newspapers that the Marseille base was going to close.
"I said 'Michael, are you going to make a life-changing decision based on something you read in a newspaper' . . . and he shrugged his shoulders."
Mr Burns told Mr O'Leary he was willing to relocate to a base within commutable distance of Marseille, where he had bought a new house with his fiancee.
He asked Mr O'Leary for details of the terms and conditions of pilots at Ryanair's bases – as the transfer to Kaunas would have seen a drop in his salary.
"He became a little bit aggressive and he pointed his finger in the direction of the IALPA office and said 'they will never get that information'," said Mr Burns.
Mr O'Leary ultimately rejected the appeal and Mr Burns was dismissed for gross misconduct for failing to report for duty at Kaunas, although the pilot argued his contract stated he was still based at Marseille and was available for work.
When he was told his grievance had been rejected, he consulted Neil Johnston of IALPA.
At a meeting with David O'Brien, Ryanair's director of flight operations, at Ryanair head office, he said Mr O'Brien was "extremely aggressive".
"He was quite abrupt in his manner. Within a short period of time he was pointing his finger very close to my face saying I knew the Marseille base was going to close and I was wasting his time."
Mr Burns said he later received a letter of apology from Mr O'Brien. However, he did not believe the apology was sincere.
The hearing was adjourned to April 14 next year.