Ryanair challenges the Danish model

Employment and labour law  Written on 20.11.2015

“A rose by any other name..”, in this case the Danish model for labour market regulation, which is also known as the “flexicurity model”, is a tripartite model that regulates a free yet still controlled relationship between employers, workers and the state. The main objective is to secure rights for both the worker and the employer, whilst the state benefits from this delegation of power as the market becomes more flexible that way.

This summer the Danish model was accused of being illegal and in direct contravention of the fundamental principle of free movement of labour in Europe. These accusations were made by the Irish airline Ryanair, as it was facing one of the biggest challenges to its low-cost model.  

In July the Danish Labour Court ruled that the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) had the right to take so-called ´industrial action´ against Ryanair. This meant that the trade union was allowed to call for a strike that prevented Ryanair from operating out of Denmark by the union members refusing to put fuel on the aircraft and refusing to handle baggage that was to be loaded onto the aircraft.

The dispute began when Ryanair refused to sign a collective agreement with local staff. The collective agreement would secure the cabin crew fair wages. Danish unions claimed that Ryanair cabin crew earned less than half the wages of a rival local low-cost airline.

Even the Mayor (SocDem) of Copenhagen banned municipal workers from using Ryanair for official trips as long as the airline refused to sign a collective agreement that would secure fair competition with other airlines. 

The ruling of the Danish Labour Court made it clear that the Danish model works as a safeguard against social dumping when international corporations want to start up operations in Denmark and do business without respecting their employees’ rights.

As Ryanair refused to negotiate, it no longer operates out of Denmark - it only flies in and out of Danish airports, but with planes and staff based in other European countries that do not have the same protection of working conditions.