Brief blog

Ryanair is blackmailing the right to strike

(B2) Ryanair has announced that it will suspend reservations at Charleroi airport (Belgium) from November 12 in order to guarantee a strike-free airport. “Ryanair is determined to operate its flights only if the company receives assurances that a possible strike will no longer be able to block this international airport. ” said his press release published on the internet. The Irish company had seen its flight plan disrupted by a strike lasting several days last June by airport staff, a strike that under pressure the airport had not managed to break despite calling on staff. other companies.

This is not blackmail against the right to strike, says the Commission
A situation which hardly affects the European Commission which, on Thursday August 23, rejected the term of blackmail. “To our knowledge, the company has not blackmailed the strike,” explains one of the Commission's spokespersons. “She just asked that the service not be disrupted. (…) This is a question to be resolved between companies” (Editor’s note: Charleroi airport and Ryanair). Refusing to confirm that the right to strike is a fundamental right, the spokesperson gets away with a generality. “It is not for the Commission to comment on this point.”

Ryanair, however, is not known for being a social model
– the company circumvents Belgian social law and applies Irish law (CSC file)
– deplorable working conditions (Amnesty International Belgium file)
– trade union rights violated (Ryanair employee website)
– reactions in Sweden (reported by Air South)
End of flights = end of aid for Ryanair?
La Wallonia and the unions do not, however, lack arguments in the matter. Ryanair will have to – if it maintains its position – at least give up certain aid already received. A contract binds Charleroi airport, the Walloon authorities and Ryanair for a period of 15 years for a set of advantages, partially endorsed in 2004 by the European Commission. This provides in its decision that “start-up aid for new routes must be accompanied by a mechanism providing for penalties in the event of non-performance by Ryanair of its contractual obligations. In the event of termination of the contract before its expiry, it is up to the Walloon Region to request application of the clause and therefore damages from Ryanair,” the Commission believes. A serious brake on Ryanair's somewhat abrupt statements.

Not to mention the painful reimbursement of illegal aid.
If the region forgot to mention this contractual liability clause in the contract, the Commission could “take it into account to calculate with Belgium the total and final amount of aid to be recovered” estimates a European official. Indeed, the airline must still reimburse the part of the aid declared illegal by the Commission (Ryanair has still not reimbursed this part, preferring record, pending a judgment from the European Court of First Instance, which she hopes will prove her right). A rather optimistic vision, however, because sufficient political courage would be required from the European and Walloon executives to recalculate the aid to be reimbursed.

Serious European defect
In general, however, we detect a defect in the European “armour” in terms of public aid and competition. Nothing is planned in terms of reimbursement of aid already received (paid by local or national authorities), for the period already elapsed, in the event of a company failing to meet its commitments in terms of economic development and employment . Which is, in a way, a case of unfair competition. Nothing is mentioned directly in the European guidelines dating from 2005 on aid to regional airports (which Ryanair, a real money pump for regional subsidies, uses extensively). Several precedents have already been in question. But foreignly, the Commission, although generally quick to sanction differences in competition, has remained strangely inactive on this point, and, to put it bluntly, complicit with “rogue companies”. In this little game “I pocket the help and I get away”, the company is already known as the white wolf (see Clermont-Ferrand in 2004)


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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