Ryanair is obliged to pay Italian - rather than Irish - social security for some of its 219 staff based in Italy’s Bergamo airport, an EU court has found.
Staff not covered by Irish-issued E101 certificates and who spend time in Ryanair’s crew room in Bergamo's Orio al Serio airport are effectively Italian employees for social security purposes, the European Court of Justice said in a preliminary ruling today.
The ruling has to be sent back to the Italian courts for a final decision.
The case is part a decade-long tussle between Ryanair and the Italian authorities over the law applies to staff that are largely based on Irish-registered planes.
In 2012, Reuters reported that Italian prosecutors had been investigating Ryanair since 2010 for allegedly dodging around €12m in social security payments for its staff at Bergamo. Ryanair denied the allegations, saying it had followed EU social security and tax rules.
EU social security rules say a person working in two or more countries is subject to the legislation of the country where they carry out a substantial part of their work.
Those rules came into effect in 2010.
Today’s finding concerns social security payments due between 2006 and 2013.
The case rests on an investigation by Italy’s social security institute (the INPS), which found that Ryanair’s 219 Bergamo staff were employed on Italian territory and were therefore subject to Italian social insurance. The Italian workplace compensation body, the INAIL, took the same view.
However, two lower Italian courts found against the two agencies, saying the Bergamo staff were hired under Irish contracts and were working in Italy for only 45 minutes a day, with the bulk of their time spent on Irish-registered aircraft.
They also concluded that Ryanair’s crew room in the Orio al Serio airport did not amount to a “branch” or "permanent representation” in Italy, which, under EU rules, would require employees based there to pay Italian social security contributions.
However, one of the lower courts did find that not all 219 workers were covered by the Irish E101 certificates produced by Ryanair.
The INPS and INAIL appealed the lower courts’ decisions before Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation, which referred the case to the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice in 2021.
The European Court of Justice took a similar view to Italy’s lower courts today, though not for all 219 Bergamo-based staff.
“The Court considers that the premises intended to be used by the Ryanair staff located at Orio al Serio airport constitutes a home base with the result that the Ryanair employees not covered by the E101 certificates who are assigned there are, in accordance with Regulation No 883/2004, subject to Italian social security legislation,” the Court of Justice said on Thursday.