Business Irish

Thursday 22 August 2019

Negotiating system for wages at Ryanair 'not a sham', says HR boss

Ted Murphy, Evert Van Zwol and John Goss, of the Ryanair Pilots Group leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Ted Murphy, Evert Van Zwol and John Goss, of the Ryanair Pilots Group leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A human resources boss at Ryanair says its system for negotiating pay and conditions with pilots is "certainly not a sham".

The "employee representative committee" (ERC) system within the airline involves two to five pilots at each of Ryanair's bases around Europe meeting with HR department representatives.

They negotiate five-year collective deals in the same way as is done in most negotiations, director of human resources strategy Darrell Hughes told the High Court.

"They are certainly not a sham," he told a jury on the fifth day of a Ryanair defamation action.

The action is against three founders of the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) - Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy - who, the airline says, issued a statement in 2013 falsely saying the company misled investors. The three deny the claims.

On the fifth day of the action before Mr Justice Bernard Barton and a jury, Mr Hughes was replying to questions from Ryanair counsel Thomas Hogan.

Counsel asked him about claims made in RPG correspondence in 2013 to its members that Ryanair management continued to spread misleading information about these local ERC pay agreements.

The RPG claimed they were a sham, designed to circumvent pilots' bargaining rights.

Mr Hughes said they were like any negotiation where there are two sides seeking different things who usually meet in the middle.

Earlier, he said the RPG, from its inception in 2012, regularly made statements about industrial relations and there were many disparaging comments about Ryanair management.

However, after some 15 local ERC agreements had been voted through by pilots in April 2013, the RPG's "focus of attack" moved from industrial relations to issues of safety, he said.

It sought to get pilots to sign up to a safety incident reporting system. This then evolved into an attack on financial prudence, he said.

Mr Hughes said it was the case that only directly employed pilots could vote on the ERC agreements because the contracted pilots were sourced through agencies, which negotiate directly with Ryanair as to pay and conditions.

In 2013, the breakdown of directly employed to contractors was 70/30 and today it was nearer 50/50, he said.

Those on contracts were paid by flying hours and were generally younger people who preferred that because the difference in tax treatment between the two types meant contractors could help pay for the high cost of their pilot training. Contractors were more flexible and agreed to be posted at other airports for one in every four "flying blocks".

Directly employed were generally people more settled and Ryanair's family friendly rosters meant they could usually be home in their own beds each night, something not available in other airlines, he said.

The difference in pay between directly employed and contractors "varies from base to base" but in some cases contractors got more than direct employees and in others less.

When it came to negotiating terms and conditions, pilots were a "totally mobile" group of workers who did not have the same visa restrictions as the rest and could go and work in north-west China at more than €20,000 a month, he said.

If Ryanair wanted to attract them, it must provide good pay and conditions, he said.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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