Norwegian in surprise move as strike continues

Norwegian in surprise move as strike continues
Passengers queuing at Arlanda airport on Thursday. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
UPDATED: Scandinavian budget airline Norwegian is transferring all its pilots in Sweden, Norway and Denmark to three new daughter companies, it announced on Thursday afternoon, as tensions grew on the sixth day of industrial action.

After an extra board meeting Norwegian said it has created three new subsidiaries for its pilots in Scandinavia. The collective agreement will apply in the new firms, including the right to strike, said the airline.

"Enough is enough. More than 100,000 travellers have been affected by the pilot strike so far. Norwegian Air Norway (NAN) management has been given full power by management of the mother company to rescue the organization from this ongoing crisis," said the airline in a press release.

The unexpected news comes on the sixth day of industrial action. Many questions remained on Thursday afternoon, but Norwegian said the move would decrease the risk of financial troubles for its subsidiary NAN.

Pilots employed by NAN want to maintain tight organizational links with the parent company in the hope of safeguarding their jobs and to standardize salary conditions for all pilots employed in the various Scandinavian subsidiaries.

Norwegian, which last year suffered its first loss in eight years, is looking to reduce the costs and benefits for pilots, and increase job flexibility.

All 700 pilots employed by NAN are on strike and 800 cabin staff have been sent home without pay in a Norwegian-imposed lockout.

Delayed passengers waiting at Arlanda airport. Photo: The Local

Earlier on Thursday, Norwegian gave pilots’ unions NPU and Parat until 3pm to begin negotiations – but the unions did not show up.

Hans Erik Skjaeggerud, chairman of Parat, likened the deadline to a gun to the head.

“We recognize this and our members are used to it. We negotiated last night and have agreed to some changes concerning pensions and insurance. But the company gives nothing back,” he told Norwegian broadcaster TV2.

But Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos told Norway’s news agency NTB: “They have been given the opportunity to negotiate even after the deadline. This is the opposite of a threat.”

More than 100,000 travellers have been hit by the strike. As good as all domestic flights in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as flights within Scandinavia, have been cancelled for two days.

On Thursday passengers travelling from the Sweden to other European destinations including Paris were sent text messages overnight to say that their flights would be operated by Small Planet Airlines, a budget carrier based in Lithuania and Poland. Passengers were advised to check online before travelling to the airport.

Those who texted to say that they would be flying on Small Planet Airlines carriers were told: "The departure time, flight number and booking reference is the same. If you choose not to travel, we can offer you a full refund by contacting our Contact Centre by phone. Norwegian apologizes for the inconvenience."
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