Easyjet and Ryanair battle French Labour laws

Low-cost airlines Easyjet and Ryanair have been involved in running battles with the French authorities over the application of French labour laws to their flight crews, with a case now pending in the European Court. The dispute centres on a new law introduced by the French Government last November that brings their aircrews within the ambit of French labour laws. Apart from requiring that the aircrews are employed under a French employment contract, the new law means that both airlines are now required to pay high social security contributions on the wages of aircrew staff. The French authorities argue that both airlines have operational bases in France (Easyjet at Orly and Ryanair at Marseilles), which brings them under French jurisdiction. The airlines argue that the place of work of the staff is the aircraft; the bases are only ‘rest areas’. In December, the Easyjet base at Orly was subject to a heavy-handed raid by French police, tax and workplace inspectorate and, in a later court hearing, the company were found to be in breach of French laws. Easyjet appealed against the decision, which they lost. Although Ryanair has not been taken to court, they have been swept up by the same laws, and have brought an action in the European Court against the French government, as they consider the new law breaches European laws on the free movement of labour. French officials argue that their action has nothing to do with the free movement of labour, but with the fact that both companies have a base in France and are, therefore, obliged to operate according to the laws of the country. Ryanair does not mince words in its claim, in arguing that the purpose of the new law is to protect Air France who, it should be noted, are about to set up a low-cost airline in France.


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