As many as 900 pilots in Denmark, Norway and Sweden are participating in a strike which SAS has warned will affect 30,000 passengers each day the strike continues.
Unions announced that strikes would go ahead after the deadline for the two parties to find an agreement was pushed back several times.
When strike action was confirmed, union reps said that the gap between what pilots wanted and what was offered was too far to be bridged with negotiations.
“We have not succeeded in agreeing with SAS. We have been in long, long negotiations. We have come a long way. We have tried to reach an agreement but experienced that no matter how far we go, it will never be enough,” Martin Lindgren from the Swedish Pilot Association and leader of the SAS Pilot Group told business and financial site E24.
The gap between the parties stems from two issues. Firstly, pilots are unhappy with the wages and working conditions offered by SAS. Unions have said that pilots were willing to take a five percent pay cut and work longer hours to strike a deal.
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However, the bigger issue for SAS pilots is that instead of re-employing those SAS pilots who were laid off during cutbacks caused by the pandemic, priority is instead being given to hiring new pilots on cheaper deals in two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect.
The creation of the two subsidiaries came at a similar time as when 560 pilots lost their jobs due to the airline slashing costs across the board.
Meanwhile, the airline has argued that hiring new pilots to the subsidiaries is an essential part of cost-cutting practices to ensure the airline’s survival. The airline has said that the subsidiaries are a vital step in attempting to cut costs by 7.5 billion kroner annually as part of the firm’s SAS Forward plan.
In contrast, pilots’ representatives argue that using subsidiaries was a form of union-busting and goes against the Scandinavian working model.
Last week, Roger Klokset, head of the Norwegian SAS pilots’ association, told newspaper VG said they were willing to see the company go under if needs be.
“Yes. Undoubtedly if the company fails to relate to the Scandinavian model, we believe that is an actor that doesn’t have the right to life,” Klokset told VG.