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SAS

ANALYSIS: Why are SAS pilots on strike?

SAS pilots are causing travel misery for thousands but how do they justify their strike action?

Pictured is an SAS aircraft.
This is why SAS pilots have gone on strike. File photo: A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP.

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. 

READ ALSO: How long could the SAS pilot strike last?

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. 

Member comments

  1. Why on earth did you deleted my previous post.
    This strike is totally legit and as an Air France pilot having had the luck to be in a country where a national airline is deemed essential, we we given gazillions of Euro, just like Lufthansa, to hold our head aboute the water. Why haven’t Scandinavian country don’t the same.
    But, the core of the problem is that SAS pilot had a promise ( years ) to be rehired once the pandemic would be over.
    I choke when I read pilots have a strike culture !!
    A contract is a contract. How do you expect to speak of loyalty when such practices are in place ?

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SAS

Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700 mn loan

Ailing Scandinavian airline SAS, which filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States in early July, said Sunday it had secured a 700-million-dollar loan.

Struggling Scandinavian carrier SAS gets $700 mn loan

The move follows a crippling 15-day pilot strike, also in July, that cost the carrier between $9 and $12 million a day.

The pilots were protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company.

READ ALSO: SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

SAS said it has entered “into a debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing credit agreement for $700 million with funds managed by Apollo Global Management”.

SAS had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and said the “DIP financing, along with cash generated from the company’s ongoing operations, enables SAS to continue meeting its obligations throughout the chapter 11 process”.

“With this financing, we will have a strong financial position to continue supporting our ongoing operations throughout our voluntary restructuring process in the US,” SAS board chairman Carsten Dilling said.

SAS management announced in February the savings plan to cut costs by 7.5 billion Swedish kronor ($700 million), dubbed “SAS Forward”, which was supplemented in June by a plan to increase capital by nearly one billion euros ($1.04 billion).

Denmark and Sweden are the biggest shareholders with 21.8 percent each.

“We can now focus entirely on accelerating the implementation our SAS FORWARD plan, and to continue our more than 75-year legacy of being the leading airline in Scandinavia.”

SAS employs around 7,000 people, mainly in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It has suffered a string of losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

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