Five Ways Working Conditions for Flight Crew in Bulgaria are now Better

At Flight Personal Union (FPU), our mission is to empower workers to assert their rights and enhance their quality of life. Our recent court victories against Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air demonstrate that challenging unjust corporate cultures that prioritize profits over worker rights is not only possible, but necessary.

Over the last three years of our project in Eastern Europe, we have seen an unprecedented wave of improvements in the working conditions of our Bulgarian flight personnel. Here are some of the positive changes so far and five good reasons to join us in our efforts to create a more just and equitable workplace:

1. Unjust Dismissals. We were able to successfully reverse and reinstate the first-ever known Wizz Air employee dismissal in the country at the Supreme Court level, with more cases pending and expecting a similar outcome. Additionally, we have made the legal process easier and faster by proving once and for all that the actual employer is the parent company Wizz Air Hungary ZRT and not the local branches (SCC C330/2022). Our efforts have contributed to significant number of legal cases throughout the Wizz Air network. As a result of all this and the 2020 bad apples scandal, there is now a formal grading system in the company to prevent future illegal dismissals.

2. Annual Leave Days. We more than doubled the paid vacation days for cabin crew from 25 to up to 53 days (depending on flight hours) after winning a case in front of the Supreme Administrative Court. The airline refused to follow local regulations for years, which forced us to submit a complaint to the local labour authority. This led to administrative actions, which the company appealed and lost in court twice. A new European precedence (CJEU C120/21) has now also allowed us to start seeking unused vacation days without expiration and for periods greater than 10 years. This is because the company had never provided employees the opportunity to use them, despite being required to.

3. Full Salary. We finally managed to convince the airline to agree to include the additional salary elements in paid leave for all employees, in line with the European Court of Justice’s precedence (CJEU C-155/10). Before, paid leave would be based only on basic salary, which in some cases could be as little as 30% of the actual monthly income. This comes after the Romanian court upheld the CJEU ruling (DOSAR NR. 20873/3/2022) and a similar Supreme Court decision in Bulgaria is due very soon. Pilots and flight attendants can now expect to receive a proper salary when taking paid leave like the rest of their colleagues in Western Europe, where Wizz Air already complies with the regulations.

4. Additional Pay. There are now close to 40 legal cases against the airline in Bulgaria for owed and unpaid elements such as per-diems, landing or sector pay, official holidays, and more. We are fighting the improper payment of landing or sector payments, which are disguised as per-diems instead. In Bulgaria, per-diems are owed separately for every working day with an international flight, which are 55 EUR per day for flight attendants and 80-85 EUR for pilots. We are expecting further changes and increases in salaries for crew members very soon as many courts have started awarding significant damages to plaintiffs.

5. Temporary Contracts. The airline has used temporary contracts for years to hire cabin crew in Bulgaria under the guise of a special exclusion by arguing the seasonal nature of aviation. These contracts allowed for an easy way to control and easily dismiss those who were not overly obedient or “pro-company”. Now the first court cases are coming out stating that these contracts are indeed illegal. We expect the timely discontinuation of these practices and call on all employees in these situations to seek their rights. Affected employees can contact us directly if needed, as we are available for help.

All of these changes are proof of our motto that “Good wages and working conditions do not fall from the sky”. We’re committed to improving the working conditions and job security of our members by providing direct support and by collaborating with some of the most influential organizations in Europe.

“We believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and we won’t stop until we’ve achieved just that. And to those companies out there who think they can ignore the law and get away with it – think again. We’re not afraid to call you out and challenge you”, says Mircea Constantin, FPU Romania’s Head of Representation.

Our community is a significant force in creating a better aviation industry and only together can we expect to make a difference by standing up for what’s right. If you’ve felt the impact of our work, we invite you to JOIN OUR ASSOCIATION and help us create lasting change.

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