Monday 23 September 2019

Ryanair refused to accept 'yes under duress' vote from pilots on pay deal, High Court hears

A Ryanair plane
A Ryanair plane

Tim Healy

RYANAIR refused to accept a vote from pilots in Charleroi airport in Belgium as being a "yes under duress" vote on a pay and conditions deal, the High Court heard.

Former Ryanair pilot Jean Francois Clase told the 12th day of Ryanair's defamation action against three founding members of the Ryanair Pilots Group (RPG) that the airline refused to accept a majority vote of "yes under duress" for the Charleroi base in a 2015 pay and conditions agreement. 

It was the second time a vote was carried out after most pilots at the base were very unhappy with the deal being put forward, he said.

Captain Clase said he and two other members of the employee representative committee (ERC) at Charleroi, in the end, agreed with Ryanair management that the vote had to be just "yes" because, if not, management said it would not accept a conditional vote and would be taken as a rejection of the deal. 

 "We had to, we were going nowhere", he said.

Captn Clase said despite having already had two votes in which a majority of the 49 or so pilots either rejected the agreement or accepted is as "under duress", the ERC members were not going to have a third vote.  

Management had  warned that not only would proposed pay increases not be given but the pilots at Charleroi would immediately lose their more favourable 5-day on 4-day off roster arrangement and have it replaced with an older 5-day/3-day arrangement, among other things, he said. 

The ERC had asked for more time to conduct proper consultations with the pilots but Ryanair refused, he said.

Captn Clase said after the first rejection vote in early 2015,Ryanair chief operations manager Peter Bellew addressed a "town hall" meeting of pilots the base at which the same deal was again put to the pilots.  

The ERC reps had suggested that rather than have a town hall meeting that the ERC would directly contact pilots with whatever new proposals the company had due to the fact that many pilots would not be able to attend because of work or leave.  

Nevertheless Ryanair went ahead with the town hall meeting, he said.

Captn Clase said afterwards, with Ryanair insisting on a March 1 deadline for acceptance of the deal, the ERC had to arrange another vote but the majority still voted yes but this time stating it was "under duress".

Earlier, Captn Clase said he worked at Hahn (Frankfurt), Madrid and Charleroi for Ryanair and the first time he was involved in a vote for ERC reps was in Charleroi when he and two other colleagues were voted to represent the pilots by both directly employed and contracted pilots at the base. 

Despite writing to Ryanair saying they were representing all pilots at Charleroi, the company wrote back and told them they could only represent those directly employed and provided a list of those eligible to vote on any deal.

The airline also insisted the ERC reps had also to be health and safety reps at the base which Captn Clase said was not what they believed they had been elected to do. 

While they received a yearly allowance of €635 for their ERC roles, they were refused time off to perform their duties and were told by Ryanair they should be able to do so outside working hours.

Ryanair is suing RPG interim council members Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy over a September 2013 email which the airline says falsely inferred the company misled the market.

The three deny the email, headed "Pilot Update: what the markets are saying about Ryanair", was defamatory.

The hearing continues before a jury and Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

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