Danish pension fund Akademiker Pension announced today that they had sold their shares in the London-listed low-cost carrier Wizz Air, after the company failed to convince them that it was taking meaningful actions to address ongoing concerns about how it treats its workers.
Livia Spera, General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), commented: “These investors called Wizz Air out for their poor performance back in October 2021, yet it took almost three months for the company to meet them to discuss why Wizz Air does not recognise unions.”
The action by Akademiker Pension shows how increasingly investors are looking more closely at the ‘S’ in ESG – the environmental, social, and governance standards for companies – focusing on social issues, including how workers are being treated, and whether the company’s business model is compatible with respect for fundamental rights at work.
Livia Spera added, “We expect other pension funds and global asset managers with holdings in Wizz Air to put the respect for workers’ rights at the top of the agenda in their own engagement meetings with the company, and to ask for evidence that the company is changing its union-busting tactics.”
As airlines emerge from the pandemic, the functioning rules of the labour markets are tightening in Europe. Wizz Air’s anti-union stance and poor record on workers’ rights seem not at all to take into account the reality of recruiting and retaining enough airline workers to deliver its ambitious expansion plans.
ETF has repeatedly reported on the union-busting tactics of the Hungarian low-cost carrier in the last few years, warning that its expansion is regularly done at the expense of its own employees all over Europe.
It took 7 years for the justice system in Romania to finally decide that 19 former pilots and crew members of Wizz Air Romania – dismissed in 2014 mostly for starting up a union and for union related activities – had to be reinstated within the Wizz Air Romanian branch.
A similar decision was pronounced last December by the Ukrainian Court of Justice, stating undoubtedly that firing of some of its cabin-crew members back in the summer of 2020 was illegal. Amongst the people who lost their jobs as part of the so-called ‘pandemic dismissal wave’ there were all the founding members of the recognized union, within the Wizz Air Ukrainian branch.