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Ryanair Exploits Employees?: A Former Flight Attendant Accuses the Airline of Unethical Employment Practices

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: May 24, 2013 01:20 PM EDT

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A former member of the cabin crew for Ryanair has blown the whistle on the working conditions at the budget airline company, according to the Independent. Sophie Growcoot revealed the details of her employment contract with the company Crewlink, which acts as a contractor for Ryanair.

Growcoot contacted her local representative and explained that Crewlink forced her to take three months of compulsory unpaid leave a year during the winter months, when air traffic is slower. During that period of leave, the contract forbid her from taking additional employment yet provided no compensation.

Other grievances Growcoot listed included making her pay about $540 for her uniform and another approximately $2,700 for a required safety course. They also only paid her for the hours she was "in the air," which didn't include pre-flight briefings, turnaround time between flights, sales meetings or time on the ground resulting from delays or flight cancellations. In addition to the restrictions on when payment was received, the salary was only about $20 an hour without contractual review for three years.

Ryanair paid for only four days of work a week, though on the fifth day, Growcoot was expected to be on call to arrive within an hour of being notified, and these standby days were unpaid unless she was actually called in.

Growcoot recounted an incident when she was on standby and received a call to come in at 4 a.m. to work on a flight departing from Liverpool to Dublin. She paid about $15 for a taxi to the airport because public transportation wasn't running at that hour. When she arrived, she was informed that the flight had been cancelled because too few passengers were booked on it, information that would have been available to the airline prior to calling Growcoot in. She claims she was then sent home without payment or so much as an apology.

The issue was raised by Luciana Berger in the House of Commons, where she accused the company of "ruthlessly" exploiting staff members to increase profits.

"This is exploitation by Ryanair, pure and simple," she said. "It's outrageous that an airline that reported record profits last year doesn't pay its staff for all the time they are at work.

"How can [CEO] Michael O'Leary think it is fair or acceptable for his company to be profiting on the backs of exploited cabin crew like Sophie?" she added.

"I was really excited about joining Ryanair's cabin crew at first, but it was a total nightmare," Growcoot told the Independent, explaining how she felt she had been "lured" into signing the employment contract. "I couldn't believe it when I learned I wouldn't be paid for all the time I was working."

Growcoot's contract confirms her claims, according to the Independent, who viewed it. It also states that employees that leave within the first 15 months of employment are subject to an administration fee of about $300.

Ryanair has responded to the allegations.

"We are surprised by Ms. Berger's statement in the House of Commons, since this person was not employed by Ryanair, but by a contractor company, Crewlink Ltd, and appears to have left their employment without notice after just two months," the company said in a statement. "We are also surprised that Ms. Berger made no effort to verify these false claims with Ryanair before using her House of Commons privilege to make false accusations."

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