In April 2020, a cabin crew member Marcin won a case against Ryanair’s employment agency – Crewlink – in Ireland. The Workplace Relations Commission’s decision confirmed that he was entitled to redundancy pay after he was placed on lay-off in 2018. He shared his story with us, giving us insight into the case, as well as reflecting on other Ryanair’s actions. Many of them are more or less explicitly aimed at quelling union organising as soon as it’s detected.
I started working for Ryanair many years ago, and I was always employed through an employment agency, Crewlink. It’s an Irish company, and it works exclusively on recruiting workers for Ryanair, in bases around Europe. Between 2008 and 2012, I was based in Shannon, Bologna, and Malaga, and ended up in Wroclaw. I worked at the Wroclaw base between 2012 and 2018, when I was placed on lay-off by the agency in December. It happened at a time when Ryanair closed all its bases in Poland, transferring operations to its sister company, Ryanair Sun (later rebranded to Buzz). I was told that I would have to accept a position in a different base if I wanted to keep the job. I refused, as this offer was unreasonable – I had worked at the base for many years and had settled there. I applied for a cabin crew position at Ryanair (Sun) through a different agency, but the offer was withdrawn. It was made clear to me by my superior at the time that this was done in response to me being an active trade union member.
I decided to take legal action against Ryanair after being put on lay-off and being denied the right to redundancy pay. Throughout this process, I was supported by the Polish union Terenowa Organizacja Zwiazkowa Personelu Pokładowego i Naziemnego, member of the ETF affiliate NSZZ Solidarność. Crewlink is an Irish company, I had an employment contract under Irish law and paid my social contributions in Ireland, so I had to issue a complaint there, with the Workplace Relations Commission. Last month, I received the Commission’s decision: they ruled that I indeed was entitled to the payment by Crewlink.
While this case addresses a part of the problem – Ryanair’s refusal to respect laws and provide social security to their workers – my aim is to highlight various other dubious practices. Ryanair has been using this network of different businesses – airlines and employment agencies – to move people around as they please and get rid of them as soon as they detect them as a threat. That often happens once they are aware of union activity in the base.
Despite the win, I’m not interested in getting the unpaid redundancy payment as much as I am in getting justice. Ryanair keeps using these tactics to intimidate workers and stop them from organising, and it’s time to stop them.
To all the workers that are in a similar situation, this is my advice: work together and don’t give up. The company tries to find weaknesses and attack wherever they can, but remember – together, we are stronger.