A critical employment law ruling won by Belgian cabin crew at low-fare carrier Ryanair's operation at Charleroi in March 2005 has been nullified.

The Belgian labour court has ruled that for employees whose place of work - an aircraft - traverses borders, and therefore jurisdictions, the only court competent to rule is one in the country where the employer is based and where the aircraft are registered. In the case of Ryanair this means Ireland.

According to law firm Eversheds, counsel to Ryanair, the claimants are proposing to take this to Belgium's supreme court, and they have three months in which to do so.

The three Charleroi-based cabin crew were dismissed by Ryanair in April 2002, and in March 2005 the Charleroi labour court ruled that they had been unfairly dismissed and were due compensation according to Belgian employment law. That ruling rejected Ryanair's claims that Irish employment law prevailed.

But on 7 September in the labour court at Mons, Belgium, the court ruled that Belgian law did not apply to those whose place of work was in aircraft that traversed jurisdictions, whatever their nationality or the country in which they live and begin and end their work each day.

Ryanair's human resources director Eddie Wilson says: "We believe the Belgian court has made a sensible decision [which] will help to clarify the position for other airline businesses employing workers that regularly cross jurisdictions."

Eversheds says: "Airline staff who spend the majority of their time on board aircraft will be clear that their employment rights are restricted to those that apply in the country where their employer is situated."

Source: Flight International