The European Court of Justice has ruled on a decade-long dispute over social security payments to Ryanair staff working at Italy’s Bergamo airport.
The low-cost airline now has to pay Italian social security for some of its 219 employees based there, rather than Irish social security.
The battle began in 2012, when Italy began investigating Ryanair for allegedly evading around 12 million euros in payments since 2010.
Prosecutors in the northern Italian city where Ryanair-operated airport Orio al Serio is based claim that the Irish airline avoided higher taxation in Italy by paying lower pension fees in Ireland for staff flying in and out of Bergamo.
Ryanair denied the allegations, saying they had followed EU social security and tax rules.
EU social security rules state that a person working in two or more countries is subject to the law of the country in which they perform a significant part of their work. These laws came into force in 2010.
The latest ruling concerns social security payments to be paid between 2006 and 2013.
The European Court of Justice said in a preliminary ruling that the Bergamo staff were employed under Irish contracts and worked in Italy for only 45 minutes a day at Orio al Serio airport.
Most of their time was spent on Irish-registered aircraft, and Ryanair’s crew quarters at the airport did not constitute a “branch” or “permanent representation” in Italy.
Therefore, they should not be covered by Italian social insurance.
However, Ryanair failed to provide evidence that each crew member was covered by Irish-issued E101 certificates, so the court ruled that they are in fact Italian employees for social security reasons.
The decision must be sent back to the Italian courts for a final decision.