Ryanair has been accused of “ruthless exploitation” after a former flight attendant contacted her MP to complain about working conditions at the airline.
Sophie Growcoot, who was employed by Crewlink, a contractor for Ryanair, claimed she was forced to take three months’ unpaid leave a year – during which she was not permitted to seek alternative employment, The Independent reported .
She said she was forced to pay £360 for her uniform, and £1,800 towards a safety course, and only received money for hours spent in the air – meaning she was not paid for pre-flight briefings, or time spent on the ground between flights and during delays. Her pay amounted to £13.07 an hour, with no review for three years.
Ms Growcoot added that she was only paid to work four days a week, but on a fifth day was required to be on standby, and expected to turn up for work at an hour’s notice if required. She alleged that on one occasion she was called at 4am to work on a flight from Liverpool to Dublin, but when she turned up the service was cancelled because so few passengers were due to fly on it. She claimed she was sent home without payment – or an apology.
Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, raised the issue in the House of Commons, accusing the airline – which recently announced annual profits of nearly £500 million – of “ruthlessly” exploiting its staff.
“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 Michael O’Leary think it is fair or acceptable for his company to be profiting on the backs of exploited cabin crew like Sophie?”
Ms Growcoot told The Independent she felt she had been “lured” into signing a contract with Crewlink.
“I was really excited about joining Ryanair’s cabin crew at first but it was a total nightmare,” she said. “We’d be paid only when the wheels were moving, so I didn’t get a penny for turnaround between flights or the hours when flights were delayed or cancelled.”
A Ryanair spokesman said: “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. 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.”
Crewlink denied the allegations, and said no payments had been made by Ms Growcoot for training. “Ms Growcoot read, understood, agreed to and signed her contract prior to commencing work,” it said.