Airline probed for suspected flouting of French labour law
RYANAIR has been placed under formal investigation on suspicion of flouting France's labour laws by employing staff at its base in Marseilles on Irish work contracts.
The airline responded by reiterating a threat to close its Marseilles operation, with a loss of 120 jobs, if it is taken to court.
The announcement of a formal inquiry by magistrates in Aix-en-Provence comes after both easyJet, the British low-cost airline, and Vueling, its Spanish rival, were prosecuted over similar allegations this year.
A French judicial source said that Ryanair had been formally accused of using clandestine workers, of the unlawful employment of air crew, of hindering the establishment of a works committee and a hygiene and safety committee and of preventing unions from exercising their rights.
The Irish carrier faces a maximum fine of €225,000 if found guilty, but a leading employment lawyer said that damages and compensation payments could be much higher.
He said that Ryanair could be forced to pay retroactive social security charges for all its employees in Marseilles, going back to the launch of its base at the city's airport in 2006.
Under the French welfare system, employers have to pay up to €100 in social security charges for every €100 they pay as a salary to their workers.
The investigation comes after the French National Pilot's Union filed a lawsuit this year alleging Ryanair had breached Gallic legislation.
The carrier argues the decree was signed in 2006 to help Air France to fight low-cost competitors and it infringes European law.
A spokesman for the carrier said that it would close the Marseilles base in the event of a court case, a threat which has alarmed local politicians, who say Ryanair has invested €300m in its Marseilles operation and accounts for a fifth of passenger traffic at the airport.