Ryanair cabin crew members looking to bring a case against their employer do not have to turn to the Irish labour Tribunal just because the company’s aircraft are registered in Ireland. They can equally lodge their case in the country in which they regularly carry out their work and so in order to designate that location their officially assigned base (home base) is a significant indicator. Thus the argument underlying the CJEU ruling handed down on 14 September (Cases C-168/16 and C-169/16).

Between 2009 and 2011 workers from Portugal, Belgium, and Spain were employed as cabin staff by both Ryanair and Crewlink, both Irish registered companies. Their services were considered to having been carried out in Ireland in so far as the aircraft in which they worked were registered in Ireland. However their employment contracts mentioned the Belgian airport of Charleroi as their “home base” and called it the employee home base since these employees commenced and ended their working day at that location and were obliged to reside within one hour of the said location. Convinced that both companies had to comply with Belgian law the workers decided to lodge their complaint with the Belgian courts. However Ryanair and Crewlink invoked a clause in their employment contracts that obliged the workers to use the Irish labor Tribunal when lodging any complaint.

In its ruling the CJEU did not address the issue of identifying which law applied and which did not. Instead the court stated that the Belgian Labor Tribunal at Mons could be competent to treat the case based on the rules of private international law. In fact, the Court pointed that as regards disputes related to employment contracts, the

European rules concerning jurisdiction are aimed at protecting the weaker party. Thus an employee can either choose the jurisdiction of the State where the employer is domiciled or the jurisdiction of the State where the work is habitually carried out. In the air transport sector this notion is defined as ‘the place from which the employee carries out transport-related tasks, returns after the tasks, receives instructions concerning the tasks and organises the work, and the place where the work tools are to be found.’ For the judges this notion is not to be confused with the ‘home base’ but concluded that it was nonetheless ‘a significant indicium for the purposes of determining the ‘place where the employee habitually carries out his work’.