Mediation has been scheduled for September 9-10. If the state mediator doesn’t manage to resolve conflictsbetween frustrated pilots and SAS management, which has struggled for years to cut costs to compete against low-fare carriers, the pilots can opt to strikefrom September 11.
‘They’re taking our jobs’
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported on Tuesday that the pilots’ frustration is rooted in SAS management’s plans, announced last winter, to open new bases for SAS aircraft and crews at Heathrow Airport in London and at Marbella in Spain. The new bases wouldcut costs for SAS, much like similar bases have cut costs butalsocontributed to setting offa strike at rival Norwegian Air two years ago.SAS’ new basesare due to be operational from November 1.
“It’s clear this has had a negative effect on the climate between the two sides,” Jens Lippestad of NSF told DN . “They’re taking our jobs.” He also claims SAS’ new Irish-registered subsidiary set up to run the bases outside Scandinavia, called SAIL, will use SAS’ newest Airbus A320neo aircraft “bought with money that we helped the airline earn over many years.”
DN noted that EU regulations, meanwhile, prevent the establishment of the new bases from being part of their negotiations. The Norwegian and Danish pilots thus have resorted to raising old demands, likegetting more free weekends,receiving their work schedules sooner, having more flexible shifts and more pilots on the jobs during the busy summer tourist months.
Strike can cost jobs, too
There is some hope that a strike can be averted. Airline analyst Jacob Pedersen at Sydbank in Denmark said the threat of a strike has already put pressure on SAS and its management, and on employees. “At the same time, I think the pilots realize that they’re not well-served by a major conflict, because that can put their jobs in danger,” Pedersen told DN .
Mediation will be over worktime, which also was a central theme last spring, when SAS’ Danish and Norwegian pilots opted not to strike. They agreed on overtime pay, while SAS’ Swedish pilots went on strike for five days . That cost the airline an estimated SEK 150 million.
SAS management won’t comment on the conflict in detail, saying only that they have “a strong ambition” to agree on a new collective bargaining pact and avoid a strike.
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