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.