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Ryanair in French court for dodging French labour law

Ryanair Boeing 737-800s in Seattle, USA
Ryanair Boeing 737-800s in Seattle, USA REUTERS/Marian Lockhart/Boeing Company/Handout

Irish low-cost flight company Ryanair appeared in a French court Thursday, accused of dodging French taxes and labour law at an airport it opened in the Mediterranean city of Marseille in 2007.

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France’s social security system is demanding four million euros in unpaid contributions for employees whom Ryanair never registered with it, while unions and the employment service demand action over its failure to apply French labour law.

Having succeeded in having the case adjourned in January, Ryanair’s lawyers tried to win a second adjournment on Thursday morning, claiming that the company had not been officially informed of the case and that prosecutors had not properly completed the list of documents submitted.

After an hour’s suspension, judge Véronique Imbert turned down the request.

French prosecutors suspect the Irish authorities, who were charged with transmitting the summons for the January hearing, of trying to help Ryanair avoid trial in France.

In 2007 Ryanair decided to base four airplanes and 127 employees, some provided by subcontractors, in Marseille but failed to register the fact with the French authorities or fill in a French tax declaration.

The company argues that it was acting according to Irish law, that its activity in Marseille was temporary and that its employees took their orders from its Dublin HQ.

Prosecutors argue that the presence of two managers on premises of 300m² proves disproves the claim and even staked out the carpark to prove that most employees lived in the region.

When the case was brought in 2010 Ryanair closed its Marseille operation, with the support of some local right-wing politicians, including Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin.

Three weeks later it restarted flights from nearby Marignane, restricting them to the summer and thus avoiding any obligations under French law.

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