ITF President calls for new Ryanair chairman at shareholder meeting

Ryanair must find a new chairman to take the company forward sustainably, President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Paddy Crumlin has told an international meeting of major global pension fund trustees.

Addressing the annual conference of the Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC) in San Francisco, Mr Crumlin has highlighted the need for fresh leadership at the low-fare airline. This comes ahead of the company’s AGM in Ireland on 20 September.

Mr Crumlin said: “It’s clear that Ryanair’s corporate governance model needs to change. Nine months on from announcing it would recognise unions, the company’s progress has been erratic and contradictory. While recognition deals have been signed in some countries, in others workers have been driven to industrial action to make their voices heard. Ryanair doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going.”

“The role of a chair is to hold the company management to account and keep them on track. Instead, in David Bonderman we have a close friend of the chief executive who has kept the same job for 22 years. There is no semblance of independent challenge at boardroom level.”

“Ryanair needs a chair who works in the interests of all the company’s stakeholders – workers, passengers and investors – and doesn’t just prop up a cosy management club. That would all give us the confidence that Ryanair can transition to a sustainable business model.”

The CWC brings together unions and union trustees from around the world. Attendees include trustees from some of the world’s largest pension funds, a number of which are Ryanair shareholders. The ITF will also be talking to US investors, who control almost half of Ryanair’s shares.

Last week, ITF and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) wrote to shareholders asking them to oppose the re-election of Mr Bonderman and overhaul the company’s corporate governance practices. Over the following days this call was repeated by shareholder advisory groups Glass Lewis and ISS, both of whom want to see a new Ryanair chairman.

Mr Bonderman has chaired Ryanair since 1996, overseeing a corporate culture which for two decades was virulently anti-union. Concerns about Ryanair’s corporate governance model are long-standing, and a number of shareholders have also previously voted against his re-election. This year, Ryanair has gone to the unusual lengths of banning media from its AGM, indicating a fear of public scrutiny consistent with its aversion to independent challenge in the boardroom.

Tomorrow (12 September) Ryanair workers in Germany organised by ITF/ETF affiliate ver.di will be taking industrial action. This is another clear sign of workers’ discontent and the inability of the company management to develop a good social dialogue. There are also further plans for major strike action in several European countries later this month.

Later this week, Mr Crumlin and CWC participants will be attending the Principles for Responsible Investment annual conference – also in San Francisco – and he will reiterate the call for shareholders to vote against Mr Bonderman’s re-election.

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