Ryanair's O'Leary blasts 'protectionist' France

Sophie Inge
Sophie Inge - [email protected]
Ryanair's O'Leary blasts 'protectionist' France
Last year the airline was ordered to pay €8.1 million ($10.3 million) in damages along with €200,000 in fines for breaching French labour laws. Photo: Paolo Margari/Flickr

Ryanair’s outspoken CEO Michael O'Leary has slammed the French government for being “protectionist” and said his airline shouldn't have to pay payroll taxes in France. The ruling Socialist party hit back saying Ryanair's practices were "borderline fraud".


O'Leary, who has never been one for holding his tongue, has lambasted French politicians for taking the country towards bankruptcy.

“I love France and the French people. I just hate the political class that so carefully destroys the French economy by thinking that you can react to globalization with protectionism,” Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said in an interview published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche.

"Look at the number of young talented French people who come to work in London or Dublin. If things do not change, France will end up bankrupt," O'Learysaid. 

O’Leary was speaking four months after the Irish budget airline was ordered to pay €8.1 million ($10.3 million) in damages along with €200,000 in fines for paying workers under Irish contracts to save money on payroll and other taxes in breach of French labour law.

Social charges in France are at around 40-45 percent, compared to 10.75 percent in Ireland.

When asked if he considered the ruling as “harassment”, the CEO responded:

“Everything has been done against us: investigations, trials, appeals at the level of the European Union for competition issues. I don’t see why we have to pay taxes in the countries where we operate and not in the country of the group that employs you."

O'Leary's lambasting of French labour practices and laws went on.

"Who would want to employ staff in France? Have you seen the tax rules and labour laws?," he said.

"We have staff in Spain, Italy, Germany, but not in France because of the crazy bureaucracy.

"Or to be more accurate, we have staff in Marseilles, but only six months a year. We employ them in seasonal jobs so as not to avoid the heavy legislation."

Unsurprisingly, French politicians did not take kindly to O’Leary’s comments.

In a tweet published on Sunday morning the president of the Socialist Group in the National Assembly Bruno Le Roux wrote: “He despises us and we, we despise his methods.”

Speaking on i Télé on Monday, the MP went further, accusing the airline of “borderline fraud” and criticizing what he described as its “contemptuous methods”.

The airline, he said wants to “go as far as possible to try to dodge social legislation to get to the to the other side”.

He added that “the French political class is mobilized for competitiveness, but also to guarantee a certain number of norms.”



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