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SAS and pilot unions continue negotiations into weekend

The Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still continuing talks on Saturday, with an agreement by the end of the day deemed "unlikely."

SAS and pilot unions continue negotiations into weekend
A passenger walks at Oslo airport. Photo by CORNELIUS POPPE / NTB SCANPIX / AFP

The negotiations, which are being held at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, started on Wednesday and have included 15-hour days.

On Saturday morning, chief negotiator for SAS Marianne Hernæs told news agency TT that they would press ahead quickly but she doubted that an agreement would be reached by the end of the day.

The Norwegian mediator Mats Wilhelm Ruland, said there was a “sincere will to resolve this”. When asked if he had booked a flight home to Norway on Saturday night, he replied “no” with a laugh.

When Friday’s negotiations finished for the day, Ruland announced “progress” and said he was “optimistic” about Saturday’s continued talks.

About 1000 SAS pilots from Denmark, Norway and Sweden have been on strike since Monday 4th July. 

The pilots walked out last week after negotiations broke down. They are protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company, and the firm’s decision not to re-hire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The strike, which is now in its 13th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers. 

READ MORE: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

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TRAVEL

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.”

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