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BALPA wins major legal victory against Ryanair over ‘blacklisting’

by John Stembridge-King BALPA Head of Legal Services

BALPA has won a major legal victory against Ryanair in an initial court battle over the punitive actions of the airline against pilots who took industrial action in 2019.

We are funding an Employment Tribunal claim brought by 29 members, who each had their staff travel benefits removed in retaliation for striking.

The pilots’ case is that the threatened, and actual, removal of those benefits was unlawful. They argue that Ryanair’s actions contravene the relevant law, which provides that a worker has a right not to be subjected to any detriment for taking part in trade union activities. They also argue Ryanair used a ‘prohibited list’ under the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010 in determining who to punish. That is to say, these pilots were illegally ‘blacklisted’.

Following a two-day preliminary hearing, the Employment Tribunal has robustly rejected Ryanair’s technical legal submissions that the relevant legislation does not apply in this case.  The Tribunal also rejected an attempt by Ryanair to re-argue the lawfulness of the strike action itself, having been defeated by BALPA in their attempt to obtain an interim injunction to restrain the strike in August 2019 and subsequently deciding to abandon its High Court proceedings against BALPA.

This is a landmark legal decision, the effects of which go beyond Ryanair and the airline industry to the trade union movement as a whole. In particular, by ruling that the claimants were taking part in trade union activities by going on strike, the Tribunal has fired a loud warning shot across the bows of employers who try to punish employees for striking by subjecting them to detrimental treatment.

The proceedings will now continue to a full hearing where the Tribunal will rule substantively on whether Ryanair did breach the law as we believe they did.  The 29 members bringing the claim continue to have the complete and unfaltering support of BALPA and should know that 10,000 BALPA members stand behind them in solidarity. And we will update all members on further developments in this case as they occur.