SAS pilots launch lawsuit over restructuring

Scandinavian Airlines pilots announced on Wednesday that they would take legal action against management because of changes to the company's structure which they claim have weakened their terms of employment.

“We will start legal proceedings against SAS today,” said Göran Adbro, chairman of SAS Airlines Captains’ Association in Sweden.

The move came in response to a reorganization by SAS that entered into force on Wednesday, under which SAS pilots will now be employed by their respective companies, SAS Denmark and SAS Sweden, rather than by the umbrella group.

Pilots of SAS’s Norwegian arm, SAS Braathens, have been employed locally since 2004.

In a letter that was to be sent to SAS on Wednesday, the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish pilots accused the airline of violating Swedish employment law and an agreement signed in 2004 between management and pilots preserving their collective bargaining status.

SAS’s head office is in Stockholm.

Pilots said they would also demand damages totalling 45 million Swedish kronor (5.7 million dollars).

Adbro said further steps would be taken if SAS failed to back down and threatened to take the case to the Swedish Labour Court.

In January, 150 Danish and 100 Norwegian SAS pilots conducted wildcat strikes to protest against the planned changes. The Danish action, which left 60,000 passengers stranded, is believed to have cost the airline 100 million Danish kroner (16 million dollars).

Talks between the pilots’ union and management broke down in February without an agreement.

The Scandinavian carrier has said the restructuring was necessary due to fierce competition from budget airlines and as part of the group’s move to locally-based business models.

SAS spokesman Bertil Ternert said that SAS had cut running costs by 30 percent since 2003, amounting to around 14 billion kronor, enabling the company to move into the black in 2005 for the first time in four years.



‘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.