Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair to appeal €10m fine imposed by French

CUT-price airline Ryanair has been ordered to pay more than €10m (£8.4m) in fines and penalties for trampling French labour laws.

A court in the south of France rejected the prosecutor's demand that the airline should also be 'fined' four Boeing 737 aircraft – or roughly €300m (£251.2m).

The criminal court in Aix-en-Provence ruled that Ryanair was guilty of employing 127 air crew at Marseille airport for five years on Irish contracts. The judges ordered the company to pay a fine of €200,000 (£167,500) and €10m (£8.4m) in compensation and back-dated social and pension contributions to the French state.

Even before the judgement, Ryanair issued a statement forecasting it would be found guilty. "We will appeal," the airline said. "European employment and social security law clearly allows mobile workers on Irish-registered aircraft, working for an Irish airline, to pay their taxes and social taxes in Ireland."

The case is likely to go all the way to the European Court in Luxembourg and could – if Ryanair succeeds – transform labour laws in Europe. The principle of 'mobile labour' claimed by the airline could apply to all European air carriers, to large truck companies and other contract workers. The French government argues this would amount to a legalisation of "social dumping, undermining the foundations of its welfare state".

Paris says that the 127 air crew employed by Ryanair from its Marseille hub from 2006 to 2010 were clearly based in France and therefore subject to French labour law and relatively high French payroll taxes. Ryanair claims its pilots and cabin staff were operating across national boundaries and not based in any one country.

In a delayed judgement after a hearing in May, the Tribunal Correctionnel in Aix accepted the arguments of the state prosecutor.

The judges drew the line at seizing the four Boeing 737 aircraft.

According to current list prices, a Boeing 737-800 of the kind used by Ryanair is worth about €75m (£62.8m).

When the case was first brought in 2010, Ryanair announced it was shutting its hub at Marseille-Marignane airport. The airline has, however, continued to use, during the summer months only, a new terminal at the airport built especially for cut-price airlines.

Belfast Telegraph