SAS strike threat over Chinese stewards

Unions at Scandinavian airline SAS are threatening to strike after the company announced plans to recruit 35 Chinese flight attendants on lower wages than the company's Nordic employees.

According to the unions, the Chinese staff will cost the company 10,000 kronor a month to employ, whereas it costs 50,000 kronor to employ comparable Scandinavian staff covered by union agreements and Nordic labour laws, Danish paper Berlingske Tidende.

The new cabin crew will work on SAS routes to China, where there is a need for Chinese-speaking personnel. But the plan has met opposition from Danish union CAU, which is now threatening to strike.

Susanne Larsson, CEO of SAS Denmark, said she was surprised by the union’s threat.

Labour relations experts also said talk of strike was extreme.

“This is an intemperate and aggressive course of action,” said Flemming Ibsen at Aalborg University.

SAS said it saw nothing strange about the planned recruitment.

“Our Chinese customers demand that we have Chinese-speaking staff onboard,” SAS PR manager Bertil Ternert told TT.

“We have employed Japanese staff in Japan to work on our Japanese routes for the past 25 years,” he added.

Now that the company plans to employ Chinese cabin staff, they will be employed in their homeland on Chinese terms and conditions.

Swedish unions said they were looking at the issue.

“We’re trying to investigate the employment conditions for Chinese staff, but it is quite clear that these will affect the Swedish cabin staff,” said Michael Collins at the HTF union, which represents many Swedish cabin staff at SAS.

TT/The Local