Danish pension giant dumps shares in Wizz Air over alleged labour abuses

AkademikerPension will sell its £2.5 million of shares in the airline.

Wizz Air met with critical investors last month (Steve Parsons/PA)
Wizz Air met with critical investors last month (Steve Parsons/PA)

One of Denmark’s biggest pension funds will sell its shares in London-listed Wizz Air over the company’s alleged human and labour rights abuses.

AkademikerPension said it would sell all of its £2.5 million of shares in the Hungarian airline, listing a series of anti-union behaviour.

“Patience ran out,” the pension fund said in a statement on Monday.

Romania sacked in 2014 shortly after telling Wizz Air they had formed a union" data-source="">

“After engaging with the company’s management, we are in no way reassured that they will initiate the changes we have requested with regard to human and labour rights issues. Therefore, we see no other way forward than to exclude the company,” said AkademikerPension chief executive Jens Munch Holst.

The pension fund said Wizz Air repeatedly refused to accept the right of staff to unionise.

It mentioned alleged events in Romania, Ukraine Norway and Italy.

In 2014, AkademikerPension said Wizz Air dismissed 19 workers in Romania shortly after they told the company they had formed a union.

The airline was fined by the Romanian supreme court.

Exclusion is the last tool in our toolbox. If we are not ready to use it, we have no leverage when as an investor we try to influence companies to change course in these kinds of cases

AkademikerPension chief executive Jens Munch Holst

AkademikerPension also pointed to comments by Wizz Air boss Jozsef Varadi, who two years ago said “unions are killing the business”.

He said Wizz Air would “simply close the base and move on” if “unions try to catch us and to kill us”.

The pension fund’s decision to divest comes around four months after it, and 13 other investors, sent a letter to the airline’s management, raising their concerns.

Wizz Air only agreed to meet with investors after they went public with the allegations, but at that meeting bosses said they would not change their approach.

Mr Munch Holst said: “Exclusion is the last tool in our toolbox. If we are not ready to use it, we have no leverage when as an investor we try to influence companies to change course in these kinds of cases. So now Wizz Air is excluded from our investment universe.”

Shares in Wizz Air had dropped 0.7% on Monday afternoon.

The airline said: “Wizz Air takes the engagement with its employees very seriously and we are confident that our structures and processes that have been in place to support open and transparent engagement are working extremely well, including our People Council, which provides a forum for employees to discuss important issues, frequent employee engagement surveys and a regular ‘Floor Talks’ programme which allows for a regular two-way dialogue with our CEO.”

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