Ryanair has again been subject to legal, and physical, action in trying to operate out of Marseille. For myself, I'd walk or swim rather than travel with Mr O'Leary's low-cost airline from what my family have told me of their experiences. Nevertheless, it appears that only France, of all the EU countries in which Ryanair operates, objects to the employment model used by Ryanair where staff are employed under Irish employment contracts and social security contributions are paid in Ireland.
Do people think that this is because France only respects EU legislation when it suits them, making a thousand difficulties whenever it doesn't? OTOH, is Ryanair pushing the legislation to, and perhaps, beyond the limits? Is Ryanair very much the wronged party, trying to run a business which is showing up the inefficiencies of the 'legacy' airlines? (It was, apparently, the French Pilots Union who made the latest complaint.) Ryanair could, of course, be accused of making lots of noise which subsequently gives rise to lots of free publicity.
My feeling is that this case is an excellent example of the challenges posed to national laws, and ways of working, by the Single Market. I thought that it was supposed to open up the inefficient practices of the past so that Europe as a whole could better face the inevitable competition from the rest of the planet.
In business who plays fair?
perhaps those who are not winners?
Those of us who do everything by the book we
can sleep at night but we may go hungry some day.
But whatever you say about Ryanair .....whatever....
they provide a good service.
As fundamentally pro-European, I still believe that there are many things wrong with the way the current European model is managed, and "fake" harmonisation is one of them - giving a nation state the right to adapt European law as it sees fit to correspond to the political proclivities of the moment is but one of the Achille's heels of the current system. Until that can be addressed, I fear that we will forever remain a collection of multiple markets, and not a single market.
There are several elements to this :
- the lack of true airline competition in much of France, where the government defends the incumbent national airline company AirFrance under pressure from the unions - even AirFrance would like to be able to operate more freely than it currently does, but the force of the unions prevents them from doing this - the status quo allows AirFrance to operate in many provincial airports as the sole provider of airline transport services ;
- the fact that the French government needs to be seen to be protecting the rights of workers on its soil, but more importantly, keeping NI contributions in the French system, especially since, if O'Leary's model takes hold, there will be a tendency for airline companies to forum shop and establish themselves and their employment contracts, in the most favorable legal and social environment to eke out the maximum return for the minimum of investment and operating costs ;
- the lack of true European social, fiscal, consumer and employment law harmonisation, thereby encouraging forum shopping - Ireland has so many tax breaks for companies in order to prop up its own collapsed economy and encourage company creation there, that it is a wonder that it hasn't been dragged before the EU Commission and fined inumerable times.
Whilst I'm not a big fan of RyanAir, I would personally like to be able to fly, year round, with more than the single choice of AirFrance (or rather its rebranded Regional Airlines aka Hop) as my sole supplier of local airline travel. In that respect, I can only hope that O'Leary's actions will force the hand of someone, somewhere along the line, to take action and make competition amongst airlines an acceptable word in France !
O'Leary imagines he can walk over any regulation placed in his company's way. However, he has been challenged and we have already seen some of the restrictions on luggage dimensions, weight and cabin baggage that were charged for their definition of excess relaxed. The principle of the single market does not work because of the entrenched positions both Ryanair and the French have adopted. If the principle worked better then all airlines operating within the EU would be obliged to observe a single set of rules. Sooner of later the Commission and possibly the European Court are going to have this or similar thrust under their noses and my suspicion is that O'Leary would come out of it with something of a 'bloodied nose' but that member nations would find themselves required to agree a single standard. Unfortunately my nose tells me that they will then be able to work on something of a cartel basis, agree and fix fares high and divide routes so that there is no more competition as it stands. Regional airports will thrive as more flights are scheduled and once low cost airlines will make a lot of money.
The rules the French play by are the rules of the EU Ryanair has tried this before. They tried to set up a permanent base in Marseilles without paying their proper cotisations. it wasn't a case of staff temporarily attached to Marseilles what they wanted to do was establish a permanent French base and only pay the social security taxes they would pay in Ireland. Good luck to them for trying but it won't work. O'Leary tries these things constantly nibbling away at the EU; Apart from that and the massive subsidies he takes from regions for "marketing support" he runs a very good service.