UK case highlights bogus self-employment

A former Ryanair pilot in the UK has been successful in a ‘bogus self-employment’ claim against Ryanair at a British employment tribunal. The pilot was working as a contractor pilot, supplied to Ryaniar through McGinley Aviation (MCG).

The case emerged as Fórsa official Katie Morgan was named as one of two ICTU representatives on an Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment working group on the determination of employment status.

Chaired by Minister of State Damien English, the group is comprised of employer and union representatives and aims to give stakeholders the opportunity to engage on the issue of false self-employment and discuss the potential to improve systems by which correct employment status can be determined.

Assisted by the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), the UK pilot argued that he was an ‘agency worker’ of Ryanair, meaning he should have been entitled to the same basic working and employment conditions as directly-employed Ryanair pilots.

Balpa’s newsletter reports that the tribunal found the pilot was not self-employed but a worker and a crew member of MCG, in addition to being an agency worker of Ryanair. It found that the pilot “had no say in anything. He just did what he was told. This is the polar opposite of running a business.”

The tribunal also observed that the pilot had “no choice as to the vehicle through which” he was to be engaged as this was “non-negotiable,” and there was a “complete imbalance of power.” It described the involvement of the service company (MCG) in these arrangements as a “fiction in practice.”

Working group

Katie said the establishment of the Irish working group marked the beginning of reviewing employment status and bogus practices.

“Our hope is to improve worker protections by addressing the problem of bogus self-employment. This has been a topic of interest within our division. Ialpa brought a motion to our divisional conference last year in which they highlighted how Irish law currently facilitates, and even encourages bogus self-employment in many sectors of the economy.

“Many who are caught in these bogus arrangements are not there by choice. In most cases, they agree to these arrangements as there’s no offer of a directly employed job. A UK supreme court judgement marked a very serious challenge to these bogus self-employment practices last year.

“Fórsa will use this process to explore all the possible avenues through which these exploitative practices can be wiped out, worker protections improved and that all other aspects of workplace safety and protections are properly implemented,” she said.

It’s never been more important – or easier – to get the protections and benefits of union membership. Join Fórsa HERE or contact us HERE.