New offer on table as pilot strike talks stall

A new deal has been proposed after pilots' unions and Scandinavian budget airline Norwegian worked through the night to negotiate an end to a strike entering its 11th day on Tuesday morning, reported Norway's state broadcaster NRK.

New offer on table as pilot strike talks stall
Norwegian communications director Anne-Sissel Skånvik. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB scanpix/TT

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It was not known on Tuesday morning what the offer contained or whether it had been accepted by pilots' unions. Johan Bisgaard, Norwegian press officer, told news agency NTB: “We will call a press conference as soon as we have something to share.”

The development came as pilots on Monday rejected the airline's call for arbitration to end a strike that has affected tens of thousands of passengers across Scandinavia.

The two sides were keeping commentary in the media to a minimum on Monday night, but Norwegian communications director Anne-Sissel Skånvik said that negotiators felt they had hit a deadlock. 

“We struggle to see how we can get to a solution,” she told Norway’s TV2 channel.  

Earlier on Monday, it was reported that the two sides were close to a solution

But after a failure to find agreement on the remaining issues, the company angered unions by attempting to switch from two-way talks to a formal arbitration process. 

“We are still sitting in talks with the company, and this initiative could harm the negotiation progress,” Hans-Erik  Skjæggerud, leader of the Parat Union said, arguing that by talking of arbitration Norwegian was implying that it wrongly viewed the talks as primarily about wages. 

“The conflict cannot be solved through arbitration,” he said.  

Parat Union leader Hans-Erik Skjæggerud. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix / TT

The strike has affected at least 150,000 passengers since it began on Saturday February 28th, after three months of fruitless talks broke down. 

More than 700 pilots working for the company’s Norwegian Air Norway subsidiary have joined the strike, and the company has temporarily laid off some 800 cabin crew without pay. 

Skånvik described Parat’s rejection of the request for arbitration as “regrettable”. 

The pilots want better job security and standardized salary terms for all pilots employed by the various Scandinavian subsidiaries of Norwegian.

The company, which in 2014 suffered its first loss in eight years, is looking to reduce operating costs as well as pilots' benefits.

All flights within Norway and Sweden were set to remain cancelled on Tuesday, although flights between Scandinavian capitals, which have barely been operating since the strike began, appear to be running as usual.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules