Institutional investors ditch Ryanair for unethical labour practices

OLIVIER HOSLET

CEO Michael O'Leary of Ryanair airlines reacts as he speaks at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, 27 January 2016.

Institutional investors ditch Ryanair for unethical labour practices


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Seven European pension funds managing €300bn in assets are offloading Ryanair from their portfolio due to the Irish Airliners’ controversial labour tactics, FT reported on Monday.

The pension funds find the Irish company ethically controversial. Among the pension funds are the Danish ATP, Sam, and PFA and the Swedish Folksama.

PKA is required to comply with guidelines for ethical investment, which it feels have been violated both in  Denmark and in France.

In 2015, Ryanair was instructed by a Danish tribunal to sign a collective bargaining agreement with Danish crews, rather than signing an Irish contract with them. Rather than comply, Ryanair services Copenhagen with Lithuanian-based crews.  In 2013, French courts fined Ryanair €9 million for obliging local crews to sign Irish contracts.

Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary said the pension funds were “idiots” and “misinformed,” as the company has not had a strike for over a decade.  He also underscored that he “couldn’t care less” as Ryanair has a supportive investment base.

Ryanair is notorious for signing individual contracts and taking on trade unions across Europe.

In July 2015, Ryanair initiated a public online campaign aimed at banning the right to strike of air traffic controllers, entitled “Keep Europe’s Skies Open”. The company aimed at obtaining the one million petition signatures required to “urge” the EU Commission and the European Parliament to take action. The company wanted nothing less than removing the right to strike from ATC unions, bringing Europe in line with the US regime.

In parallel, the company proceeded to what is in effect a “lockout,” closing down its base in Denmark, Copenhagen, to resettle in Kaunus, Lithuania. The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) responded by saying that strikes against Ryanair will take place not only in Copenhagen but also in Billund and Aarhus. The company warned that Ryanair would respond in kind, shutting down bases in Denmark. It did.

Ryanair has been investigated and cautioned by the European Commission multiple times for its labour practices. However, these are an O’Leary’s trademark. The Irish CEO gained his experience during the period of deregulation of airlines in the US (Southwest Airlines), transferring the model to Europe. He took the Irish carrier from 5,000 passengers and one aircraft to transform it into the biggest Airline in Europe.

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