(MENAFN - AFP) Irish airline Ryanair was Wednesday ordered to pay nearly ten million euros (13.5 million) in damages and interest after being found guilty of breaching French labour law.
A court in southern France, which also fined the company 200,000 euros, awarded the damages after ruling that Ryanair had illegally given Marseille-based staff Irish contracts in order to save money on payroll and other taxes.
The company was also charged with preventing workplace councils from functioning and hampering employees' access to unions.
Ryanair had said before Wednesday's hearing that it expected to lose the case and would appeal any sanction.
If upheld on appeal, the damages will have to be paid to France's social security system, the state pension funds and unions representing airline workers, all of whom were plaintiffs in the action against Ryanair.
The company could have faced even heavier penalties but the judge rejected a prosecution request for an additional fine equivalent to the value of the four Boeing 737s that the airline had flown out of Marseille between 2007-11.
Ryanair had argued that it did not have a permanent base in the Marseille area and that it was therefore entitled to keep its workforce on Irish contracts, in line with its interpretation of European Union rules on mobile workers.
Prosecutors counter argued that this claim was not credible since the airline had established offices at the airport and its staff were living locally.
The case echoes a similar hearing for easyJet, which in 2010 was ordered to pay more than 1.4 million euros in damages to unions representing crew for hiring 170 employees under British contracts at a Paris airport.
Analysts said that if upheld, the damages award would be a blow to Ryanair but with profits in the last fiscal year of 569 million euros, it would be one the company could afford.