Wizz Air: No Union Ban With Norway Move

**Update: 17/10/20 @ 16:36 UTC – Wizz Air statement to Norwegian media included below to clarify the company’s position.**

Last week, we reported that Wizz Air is planning to start domestic routes from Oslo to Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø. The ultra-low-cost airline is opening a base at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport in November and will attempt to tackle the duopoly of Norwegian Air and SAS in the market. However, conflict arose after the announcement as several Norwegian unions and organizations said they would boycott the company’s domestic routes due to the airline’s opposition to trade unions. After some back-and-forth, it looks like the airline is changing its position and allowing its employees in Norway to unionize after all.

Wizz Air
To date, Wizz Air’s workforce has not been unionized. The airline’s CEO is overall opposed to the idea of employee organization.  Photo: Pxhere

A change of position

Before this latest news, Wizz Air and its CEO were on record as being against unions. In fact, the airline’s chief József Váradi called the announcement by several of Norway’s unions and companies to boycott the airline ‘childish.’

Originally speaking with Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, he said,

“Look at all the airlines that have been occupied by unions, they are all on the verge of bankruptcy,” -József Váradi, CEO, Wizz Air via Norway Today

Wizz Air employees pay cut
Low-cost carriers are known for lower employee wages compared to their full-service counterparts. Photo: Wizz Air

However, it seems that things have changed. According to Airways Magazine, the low-cost carrier is changing its tune, announcing its willingness to comply with Norwegian law, specifically allowing its employees to organize.

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UPDATED PORTION OF ARTICLE: Wizz Air has provided Simple Flying with the press release sent to Norwegian media:

After Wizz Air’s plans to start domestic flights in Norway became known, some incorrect allegations have been made about the company. Wizz Air wants to emphasize that it always complies with applicable laws and regulations in the countries in which the company operates, and that the employees are the company’s most important resource.

“Wizz Air follows current laws and regulations in all countries we operate in. That is crucial and indispensable for a compliant operation. We fully respect the Norwegian working life model, and will of course comply with the Norwegian regulations.” -Chief People Officer of Wizz Air, Johan Eidhagen

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Wizz Air’s Norwegian employees will be unionized. Rather, the statement that the airline will comply with Norwegian regulations merely indicates that employees would not be denied the right to organize if they wanted to.

Norwegian working life

Anger and opposition were sparked when Wizz Air CEO József Váradi said that Wizz Air was “an airline without unions.” The remarks drew fire from Norwegian society’s numerous segments, from unions to private companies and even government officials.

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In fact, Airways reported that on Wednesday, the country’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she would not “fly with an airline who refuse their workers to unionize.” This statement was met with Váradi saying indirectly, “boycott us then, I do not care about it.”

The airline’s opposition to unions drew criticism from some Norwegian government officials. Photo: Wizz Air

Citing the current laws, Norway’s Prime Minister noted that it was illegal to deny the right to unionize in Norway. Other politicians had weighed in on the matter too:

“It may seem that the Wizz Air manager does not know and understand Norwegian working life. It seems he does not understand how we want Norwegian working life to be. His view of trade unions is, to put it mildly, very foreign,” -Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Henrik Asheim via Norway Today

It was also reported that the Labor Party’s fiscal policy spokeswoman Hadia Tajik called Váradi’s statements “outdated and anti-worker…[showing] a complete lack of understanding of Norway’s success story and the working life model,”

This latest news should satisfy government officials and any potential Wizz Air employees in Norway.

What’s your position on Wizz Air workers in Norway potentially unionizing? Let us know in the comments.

Simple Flying contacted Wizz Air for a statement on the matter. However, at the time of publication, no response was received.