Pan-European union representation for Ryanair pilots took a step closer to reality last week after Ireland's highest court upheld the privacy rights of the airline's union's internet discussion forum.

Ryanair European Pilots Association (REPA) was established by the airline's pilots in 2004 and draws resources from the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) and the Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA). Ryanair had sued the association over anonymous comments posted by users of its website -all Ryanair pilots- claiming a campaign of harassment. The Irish High Court found in favour of the association and its members' rights not to be identified and late last week ordered the low cost carrier to pay €1 million ($1.3 million) to the two pilot unions to cover legal costs.

REPA says it does not "yet" offer legal representation to its members, who must seek recourse through national courts with national pilots unions. However, this case has given the association a credibility boost as it moves forward. The membership of is approaching 600, it says.
BALPA says the REPA website was launched to enable Ryanair pilots exchange views on the carrier’s move to make individual pilots responsible for repaying the €15,000 training costs associated with the operation of larger Boeing 737-800s in the event the airline enters union negotiations within five years.

Ryanair says it took legal action in order to identify “just three individuals who had made anonymous postings on the REPA website advocating threats, including the slashing of car tyres, against specific Ryanair employees who had accepted posts in Dublin”.

It adds: “Had Ryanair not taken action to identify and prevent the publication of these threats, Ryanair may have been accused of allowing its employees to be bullied or intimidated by these pilot trade union activists.”

BALPA claims that Justice Thomas Smyth dismissed Ryanair’s request because the evidence surrounding it was “baseless and false”.

Union chairman Mervyn Granshaw adds: “The judge’s comments that the management style of Ryanair bears all the hallmarks of oppression were spot on and should sound another warning to governments, regulators, investors and the travelling public.”

A Ryanair spokesman says the carrier is “disappointed” with the High Court ruling, and is considering appealing the decision.

Source: Flight International