German pilots union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), has called on Irish airline Ryanair to end what it calls ‘unsavoury business practices’ after six of the airline’s bases were raided and investigated by a German employment fraud unit in early July.
Many of Ryanair’s pilots are contract pilots for the airline, meaning that they are effectively self-employed by their own company and then contract their flying services to the airline. It’s understood that the enforcement agency believed the pilots in question had constructed false employment agencies and were avoiding income tax payments.
Following the raid by Finanzkontrolle Scheinselbständigkeit (FCS), during which investigators seized computers, iPads, rosters and other documents, the VC union has called on Ryanair to end what it labels an “unsavoury business practice” and asks that their pilots are added as direct employees. The union expresses its worry for the “ascending trend” which sees pilots “only accepted if they are prepared to work as a so-called contractor, without any protection to be used for vacation and sick. All after these pilots have paid 30,000EUR training costs to the company and also committed to pay a 5000EUR penalty if they terminate their working relationship for Ryanair within three months.”
“Ryanair requires all of its pilots, both directly employed and contractor, to be fully tax compliant at all times,” explained a statement from the airline. “The German tax authorities have confirmed that Ryanair is not the subject of any tax investigations.” However, the German investigators have added that Ryanair’s business model was a central part of the investigation.
According to VC, 10% of all pilots in Germany are unemployed and according to a study from the University of Ghent, 16% of working pilots are in what the union describes as “precarious employment.”
“The VC calls for Ryanair to implement normal market working conditions for their employees, to ensure that they are guaranteed a regular basic income in case of illness, as well as eliminating practices such as involuntary relocations across Europe,” explained Martin Locher, vice president of Vereinigung Cockpit. “Low-cost airlines must, like all other airlines, also accept trade unions and join with them in fair negotiations. The price war should no longer be held on the backs of workers, and certainly not in safety-critical environments such as aviation.”