Ryanair loses crucial EU dismissal case

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The Independent Online

Three former employees of Ryanair won a key legal battle against the company yesterday when a court in Belgium ruled that their dismissal two years ago broke Belgian labour laws.

Three former employees of Ryanair won a key legal battle against the company yesterday when a court in Belgium ruled that their dismissal two years ago broke Belgian labour laws.

The ruling, which could have implications for a host of companies, is a blow to the no-frills airline operator, which claimed that the three staff members had been employed under Irish contracts. But the airline failed to convince the court with their argument that the sacking, two years ago, was legal because it accorded to Ireland's labour laws.

The verdict from a court in Charleroi coincided with the start of an EU summit in Brussels at which a piece of proposed legislation on cross-border employment conditions was centre stage.

The airline immediately announced plans to appeal. Its director of personnel director, Eddie Wilson, said: "These three former employees were let go at the end of their probation period in accordance with their contract of employment. Ryanair will launch an appeal to this decision to uphold our contracts of employment."

Though transport would be exempt from the planned new EU law designed to free up the market in services, the case highlights the extent to which labour law differs across Europe.

Under Irish law, the company argued it was within its rights to let the three cabin staff employees go after they served a one-year trial period. Lawyers for the employees claimed that under Belgian law the trial period for workers is only six months, after which they have full job protection.

Ryanair pointed out that the three signed contracts drawn up in Dublin and worked on planes that are registered in Ireland. However, the judge found that the workers were based at the company's hub in Charleroi and therefore were entitled to the protection offered under Belgian law. Ryanair has one month to lodge an appeal.

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