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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

SAS

‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers. 

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