October 19, 2018 / 3:27 PM / a month ago

Germany to give cabin crew more rights amid Ryanair row - minister

FRANKFURT, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The German government will propose legislation to guarantee airline cabin crew have the right to set up a works council, the labour minister said on Friday, in an action aimed at Ireland’s Ryanair.

Europe’s biggest budget carrier has struggled with labour relations since it bowed to pressure and recognised unions for the first time almost a year ago. The move contributed to a profit warning this month.

German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil told a news conference in Frankfurt that workers should be able to establish a works council even if there was no labour agreement with their employer, adding that this was so far impossible at Ryanair.

“Anyone who behaves like that is messing with the whole government,” Heil said, adding that German law on labour representation offered a legal loophole that should be closed by early next year.

Ryanair said it fully complied with all EU employment laws and was making “considerable progress in concluding union agreements with our people in our major EU markets.”

Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs had said in September the carrier hoped to reach an agreement with German unions before Christmas.

The head of German union Verdi praised Heil’s proposals. “I really hope that normal industry standards can be established at Ryanair,” Frank Bsirske said after a meeting Heil and Ryanair staff.

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said last week he was “hopeful and optimistic” that industrial relations issues would not damage the airline further this year after strikes contributed to a rare profit warning.

Heil is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, which proposes draft laws and which are then decided by the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

Merkel’s conservative CDU, their Bavarian CSU allies and Heil’s SPD have a majority in parliament, which means that plans by the three-party coalition usually become law once senior politicians have agreed on a compromise for a specific law.

Reporting by Patricia Uhlig Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin Writing by Thomas Seythal Editing by Edmund Blair

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