SAS and pilot unions agree to resume talks on Wednesday

Pilot unions in Denmark, Sweden and Norway are to restart negotiations with SAS on Wednesday, after the Scandinavian airline offered to make concessions.

SAS and pilot unions agree to resume talks on Wednesday
Scandinavian airline SAS aircraft of the type Airbus A321 and A320 Neo are parked at Kastrup airport on July 4, 202 after the 900 pilots at SAS went on strike. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT/AFP

“We can confirm that negotiations will be restarted on Wednesday morning in Stockholm, ” the Swedish Air Line Pilots Association (SPF), told Sweden’s TT newswire, with both the Danish and Norwegian unions making similar statements. 

SAS announced in a press release on on Monday night that it now wanted to return to the negotiating table, and was willing to make concessions. 

“SAS understands that continuing the mediation requires concessions from both sides, and SAS is willing to take its responsibility in the process,” it said. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest in the SAS pilot strike?

The decision to resume talks came a week after nearly 1,000 SAS pilots went on strike, leading to the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights, and tens of thousands of passengers either unable to take their holidays, or stranded in their holiday destinations.  

The company said it hoped to strike a new collective bargaining agreement, which would allow flights to return to normal. 

Both the Danish airline analyst Hans Jørgen Elnæs and Jacob Pedersen, an analyst at Sydbank, told TT that the conflict could be solved quickly once talks resumed. 

“I think we’re talking about a matter of days,” Elnæs said, with Pedersen also predicting that it would be “days, not weeks before the the parties can complete the negotiations”. 

“It will then of course take a few more days before air traffic can get back to normal again,” Pedersen added. 

Henrik Thyregod, chair of the Danish pilot union, said that the two sides had been close to agreement the weekend before the strike broke out.

“We actually had an agreement last Saturday, where we had reached the goals we needed to reach a deal,” he told Denmark’s Ritzau newswire. “So we’ll show up and see what they say.” 

Thyregod said he did not intend to bring anything new to the negotiating table.

“I have had member meetings in the meantime. I think it’s unrealistic to imagine that anyone would be willing to offer much more than we did. There was a demand for [cost] savings of 800 million Swedish kroner, and I think we found at least the bulk of that money.” 

The pilots are demanding that the 560 SAS pilots who were laid off during the pandemic be rehired on the same terms that they had before they lost their jobs. This would mean they would be hired directly by SAS, rather than by one of its subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect, which have a different collective bargaining agreement, and act a little like temping agencies for pilots. 

The strike has been costing the airline around 100m Swedish kronor a day. 

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SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of Danish SAS pilots have approved the agreement that ended strike action last month.

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of the Danish SAS pilots have voted yes to an agreement which ended strike action but also means, among other things, redeployments, longer working weeks and lower wages.

This was announced by Dansk Metal on Saturday morning. The pilots could have voted yes or no on the new collective agreement until midnight on Friday evening.

Pilots in Sweden and Norway have also approved the agreement.

Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, said “I am incredibly happy. It is a bit atypical to see that a collective agreement negotiation ends in agreements being made that reduce wages and conditions.”

“So of course it was exciting how our members viewed the new collective agreement. But they could also see that it was a necessity in relation to SAS’s situation,” he added.

The agreement comes after months of tug-of-war that finally saw SAS and the striking pilots reach a collective agreement on 19 July. It helped end a two-week strike.

Part of the background to the conflict between SAS and the pilots was that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS dismissed around half of its pilots.

With the new collective agreement, however, all 450 dismissed pilots will be offered re-employment in the future.

At the same time, SAS pilots will see a 25 percent pay cut, and the limit for the workload is raised from 47 hours to 60 hours per week.

But even with strike action over and a collective agreement supported by pilots, the problems are far from over for SAS, which has suffered major financial losses during the conflict.

Currently, the airline plans to begin a reconstruction in the United States under bankruptcy protection in a so-called Chapter 11 process.

Bankruptcy protection will mean that SAS can continue to operate and pay wages while the process is ongoing.

SAS is seeking financing of up to $700 million- slightly more than DKK 5.1 billion.

SAS press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said in a statement: “We are very happy and look forward to continuing our ongoing Chapter 11 process and our work to ensure a strong and sustainable airline for many years to come.The positive result of the vote will help SAS to attract long-term investors while we go through the Chapter 11 process and work further with the SAS Forward plan.”