The Hague, Nov 1 (AFP) A Dutch court Thursday slapped down Ryanair’s plan to transfer more than a dozen Dutch pilots elsewhere in Europe, saying the no-frills airline “abused its power” in deciding to close its Eindhoven base. Also Read - Italy's Forrest Gump: Man Walks For 450 Km to Cool Off After Fight With Wife, Fined For Breaching Lockdown

The under-fire Irish airline announced early last month it was shuttering its base in the southern Dutch city and pulling out its four aircraft on November 6. Also Read - Italy Imposes Ban on Christmas Midnight Mass And Travel Between Regions

Ryanair added that it would seek to minimise job losses by slotting in Dutch pilots elsewhere in its continental network. Also Read - Buy Property in Italy For Just Rs 88 - This is For Real! Read on

Sixteen Dutch pilots however sued the budget operator, asking the judges in an urgent injunction to rule against the decision.

“Ryanair may not transfer 16 pilots from their home base in Eindhoven abroad,” the Den Bosch District Court said in a statement.

“The judge ruled that Ryanair abused its power when deciding to close its base,” the court added.

While the judge couldn’t reverse the company’s decision to close its Eindhoven base, the ruling means Ryanair must continue paying the pilots.

The judge also set a 250,000 euro penalty for each pilot should the Dublin-based carrier indeed decide to ignore the ruling and transfer them.

Ryanair’s lawyers argued its decision was based on financial considerations — the airline has cut the forecast for its annual net profit by 12 per cent after it was hit by a raft of recent strikes.

The airline made the announcement after warning its its bottom line had been hit by walkouts in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain that forced it to cancel hundreds of flights in the summer season.

“Ryanair said it is closing the Eindhoven base because of financial reasons,” the court said.

“But the judge did not accept this reason. It rather seems that Ryanair took the decision to penalise previous strike action,” the court said, referring to two strikes by Dutch pilots in August and September.

Ryanair staff have been striking to obtain higher wages and an end to the practice whereby many have been working as independent contractors without the benefits of staff employees.

A key complaint of workers based in countries other than in Ireland is the fact that Ryanair have been employing them under Irish legislation.

Staff claim this creates huge insecurity for them, blocking their access to state benefits in their country.

While the judge acknowledged in this case that Ryanair and the pilots agreed on Irish legislation to govern the employment contracts “that doesn’t mean that an employer can deny Dutch employees the protection they’re entitled to under Dutch law,” the court said in the statement. (AFP) RUP

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.