At the end of his first month working on a Ryanair cabin crew, John said he was paid just €600. He lives in Holland, where the rent on his shared apartment runs to more than €900 a month. "I could not afford to pay all my bills," he recalled.
John – not his real name – acknowledged that he was paid more now, but maintained that it was often difficult to get an exact breakdown of his pay between the hours worked and commission for in-flight sales.
He was one of several Ryanair crew that gave an insight into their working lives after a group supported by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) published a charter of demands for such workers on Wednesday.
Cabin crew argue that they are the people who provided the services on the Ryanair flights that carried 130 million people across 21 European countries last year. They say they must pay for their own uniforms, the water they drink on board and face pressure to sell snacks, drinks and gifts to passengers.
List of demands
Their demands include a fair living wage, stable rosters, base transfers, promotion and disciplinary procedures that are not tied to in-flight sales. They want contracts based on the laws of the country in which they are employed and an ultimate end to working for agencies rather than Ryanair itself.
Ryanair directly employs about 2,000 of its 8,000 crew. Agencies, mainly Dublin-based Crewlink and Workforce, hire the rest. John and his colleagues say the airline's systems make it difficult to get basic entitlements such as sick pay.
“The very same day you call in sick, you must come into work and go to the office and fill out a company form explaining why you are sick,” John said. This requires details of symptoms. When he sought long-term sick pay, John found himself caught between two stools.
His Irish contract of employment meant that Dutch rules, requiring the company to provide two years’ sick pay, did not apply, but living in Holland made it difficult to claim benefits from the Republic’s welfare system.
John’s colleague Susan said crew were measured according to their in-flight sales and that Ryanair prioritised this over customer service. “They don’t treat us like we are airline employees; we feel more like salespersons,” she said.
“They are putting pressure on cabin crew by saying that if they do not sell enough, they might not get the transfer that they want or get the promotion they are looking for,” she explained.
Susan maintained that even if crew do make enough on-board sales to satisfy the airline, there were operational reasons that could prevent Ryanair from making good on transfer or promotion promises.
Ryanair said on Wednesday that cabin crew earned up to €40,000 a year, double the living wage, and work a fixed five-day-on, three-day-off roster, while they do not fly any more than 900 hours a year. According to its statement, rosters exceed all safety requirements.
The airline also pointed out that crew get a €400 uniform allowance, industry leading 10 per cent bonuses for on-board sales, sick pay, and paid and unpaid leave “as they wish”.
"Ryanair is already engaged in extensive negotiations with national cabin crew unions across Europe during which all of these, and other issues, are being negotiated and we have already concluded agreements in the UK and Italy, " the airline said.