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There'll be no charging of your mobile when you're working for Ryanair

The conditions of employment at the airline are ‘observed to be an area of concern’ according to a new pilots’ survey.

Image: Press Association Images

THE PILOT-HIRING practices of Ryanair have been thrown under the spotlight in a new survey of European airline pilots.

In an increasingly competitive industry, low cost carriers like Ryanair have turned to their employee cost base in the search for further savings.

The anonymous online survey, compiled by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), said that it considered conditions of contractor employment at Ryanair ‘to be an area of concern’ with the airline’s stringent adherence to its low-cost mantra.

“In addition to decreasing the labour cost by the excessive use of atypical contracts, Ryanair creates its cost advantage vis-à-vis other airlines,” the survey states.

This is done by:

banning staff from charging their mobile phones at work, reducing the size of the in-flight magazine from an A4 to an A5 format to save weight / fuel costs, and cutting the weight of trolleys and seats to save fuel.

“We don’t comment on false claims or anonymous surveys,” said a Ryanair spokesperson when asked about the findings of the survey.

Ryanair has a 30 year industry leading safety record and complies fully with all EU employment regulations. This anonymous University of Ghent survey is worthless as it took no steps to verify the identities of its anonymous internet contributors.

TheJournal.ie has seen a series of letters exchanged between Ryanair and the University of Ghent, Belgium (who ran and published the survey on behalf of the ECA) in which the airline vigorously questions the survey, particularly the extent to which the university verified the accuracy of the data supplied by the survey’s anonymous respondents.

Regarding atypical contracts, over half of the pilots employed by Ryanair and five other budget European carriers have been hired under ‘atypical arrangements’ according to the study, with some of the pilots surveyed claiming that 70% of Ryanair’s pilots consider themselves self-employed.

Of the 124 pilots who consider themselves to be self-employed in the survey, flying for a low fares airline, and between the ages of 20 and 30, fully 97% indicated that they fly for Ryanair.

shutterstock_185667068 Source: Shutterstock/Senohrabek

In other words roughly 120 of the 650 Ryanair pilots polled are aged between 20 and 30 and are self-employed.

Some of Ryanair’s atypical contracts are known to be worked through Epsom-based company Brookfield Aviation International. The pilots set up small companies and then enter into a contract with Brookfield who then provide the pilot’s services to Ryanair.

This practice was found in the survey to “avoid responsibility for taxation or pay-related social insurance contributions” on behalf of pilots hired in this manner, according to a 2013 British court judgement in favour of a Belgian-based pilot who challenged his part of the arrangement.

The budget carrier has likewise drawn criticism for employing pilots under Irish contracts notwithstanding the fact they are based in other countries with higher tax rates and more stringent rules of employment.

In 2013 Ryanair was ordered to pay €9 million in fines and back social security contributions for Marseille-based crew members, a decision the airline is appealing.

The crew members involved were bound by Irish contracts for which Ryanair paid Irish social security contributions which were substantially lower than the contributions required in France.

The survey does contend however that such an approach is understandable given the very international nature of the services provided by an airline pilot’s employment.

These employment practices do seem to be bearing fruit for Ryanair however with the survey estimating that the carrier enjoys a 60% cost advantage over network rivals compared to 30-50% for most low-fare airlines.

The survey also states that though working conditions at Aer Lingus are generally perceived as being superior to those of Ryanair, a ‘convergence of the two business models has been observed’ due to the ferocious nature of Ryanair’s low-cost competition.

This is to the detriment of the employees concerned.

The survey can be found here.

The findings are based upon the submissions of more than 6,600 pilots, 650 of whom indicated they are employed by Ryanair.

Read: Ryanair cites ‘human rights’ as it fights to hold onto its piece of Aer Lingus

Read: IAG boss Willie Walsh has offered a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ on Aer Lingus’ Heathrow slots*

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