Hungarian airline Wizz Air has insisted its staff are free to join trade unions, defending itself after a group of 14 investors backed a letter to the firm expressing concern that it may actively be discouraging the formation of unions among employees.

The letter, seen by IPE, was signed by Denmark’s Akademiker Pension and London-based Ardevora Asset Management and supported by other investors – only some of whom currently invest in Wizz Air, IPE understands. It was dated 18 October 2021.

In it, Anders Schelde, chief investment officer of Akademiker Pension, and William Pattisson, chief executive officer of Ardevora Asset Management, described a series of incidents in which the airline had attempted to stifle the formation of unions.

“As responsible investors, we are concerned with safeguarding a fair society and ensuring that the companies we invest in respect the fundamental human rights of their workers,” the pair wrote.

“Through our research, we have become aware of a series of incidents that suggests there may be a pattern of behaviour at Wizz Air which actively discourages the formation of unions,” they said.

According to a spokesman for Akademiker Pension, the Danish labour-market scheme has shares in Wizz Air valued at $3.5m (€3.1m).

Storebrand and PKA were also among the investors named as supporting the letter, however neither are currently investors in Wizz Air, IPE understands.

To remedy their concerns, Schelde and Pattisson said in the letter addressed to Zlatko Custovic of Wizz Air’s investor relations department in Budapest that they encouraged Wizz Air “to publicly and formally recognise employees’ rights to form and join unions; and commit to non-discrimination on the basis of union membership”.

“Other European low-cost carriers, including easyJet and Ryanair, already recognise unions, and we hope Wizz Air will soon follow suit,” they said.

Asked by IPE whether it allowed its staff to form and join trade unions, Wizz Air issued the response: “Our employees are free to form or join trade unions. Similarly, our employees are free not to join trade unions. In fact, it is a fundamental human right that no one may be pressured or otherwise compelled to belong to any form of association”.

Within an a longer statement, the company said: “We consider our employees to be our biggest asset, which is why we have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to preserve the jobs of over 5,000 colleagues, and to provide them with countless opportunities within our network to develop their careers.”

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