Former Ryanair pilot tells court he did not see pay talks at the airline as a negotiation

By Ann O’Loughlin

A former Ryanair pilot has told the High Court he did not see talks on pay and conditions in the airline as a negotiation.

"I would term it an imposition", John Goss told the 15th day of the airline’s defamation action against him and two other members of the Ryanair Pilot Group.

The three, Captains Goss, Evert Van Zwol and Ted Murphy, deny a 2013 email, which Ryanair says falsely inferred it had misled the market, was defamatory.

Under cross-examination by Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, Capt Goss also told the judge and jury that he was receiving support in this case from member organisations of the European Cockpit Association, an umbrella body for pilot unions.

He also said the Irish Airline Pilots Association had assisted him in previous cases where he had to defend himself against Ryanair and without its help he would not have been able to afford it.

Capt Goss disagreed with evidence given by Ryanair HR manager, Darrell Hughes, that the company carries out negotiations in the normal way, in which both sides have starting positions, and following discussions come to an agreement.

Capt Goss said: "If it was that simplistic in Ryanair I would agree, but unfortunately it is not".

Earlier, it was put to him the Supreme Court in 2007 had found pilots had voluntarily withdrawn from the company’s employee representative committee (ERC) system and that this was a strategy.

"It was not a strategy, it was more one of fear", he replied

Mr Hayden put to him that pilots did get involved and further pay deals were agreed. He said at that time, 2007/8, there had no election of anyone to a representative position in an organised group since 2001 when one of those representatives, Captain Martin Duffy, was dismissed.

Asked what efforts did he make to have an election during this time, he said: "I did not make any effort, I was afraid to move".

He said the first time he knew pilots Captain Alan Caul and George O’Hara were members of an ERC was when he was disciplined for putting election literature of the ERC in staff pigeon holes.

It was an election which the company had notified on its own "Crewdock" website but which subsequently did not go ahead, the court heard.

Mr Hayden asked was he telling the jury, as a man with his experience, that he was completely in the dark about an agreement which had improved pay and conditions for pilots.

He said he was in the dark because, despite discussing it with others, he did not know exactly who had organised that agreement.

There was no active committee and no meetings organised to discuss it, he said. They were presented "with what was effectively a fait accompli", he said.

When asked did he think of asking George O’Hara who he had known for several years he said he did not become aware of Mr O’Hara’s involvement until after he was being disciplined over the use of pigeon holes.

He also denied he "kept your head in the sand" about the deal that had been done by those ERC members, including getting a three per cent per year salary rise which he had benefited from.

Counsel put it to him he disagreed fundamentally with an assessment of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) in relation to an incident in which he refused to allow passengers to board a plane while it was refuelling.

Capt Goss, who last week said he had made that decision on safety grounds due to weather conditions, said there was no assessment done by the IAA. It was simply a statement from the IAA that it was an industrial rather than a safety matter.

He also said that while he never said the Ryanair employment model has safety implications, he had said it does increase stress and should be investigated by the authorities.

The authorities were now required to continually assess the new business model in aviation. Mr Hayden said that was "not the position at all" and was a matter he would have to come back to during Wednesday’s continuing cross examination of Captain Goss.

KEYWORDS: Court, Ryanair


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