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SAS ‘reaches deal’ with pilots to end strike

Airline SAS and striking pilots reached an agreement on Monday night to bring an end to the strike that has seen hundreds of flights cancelled in recent days, according to reports. However the airline later said that more work was needed to finalise the deal.

Pictured
SAS pilots say an agreement hasn't been reached. A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand AFP.

Representatives of pilots unions and the airline SAS spoke to the press on Monday about an agreement being reached and the strike ending. 

“We have a deal, all that remains now is to get the last signatures on paper,” Carsten Dilling, the airline’s chair, told Sweden’s Dagens Industri newspaper before SAS said that talks were continuing.

“What I’m hearing from the negotiation room is that we have a deal,” a spokesperson for Dansk Metal, one of the unions representing SAS pilots, told Reuters, adding the agreement was not yet finalised.

However later on Monday SAS released a statement denying that any deal had been finalised.

“Due to the speculation in the media, SAS wants to clarify that no agreement has yet been signed between the two parties. The mediation process continues,” the airline wrote on its website after several reports emerged that the company and pilots had agreed to end the strike. 

“While the mediation has moved in the right direction, no agreement has yet been signed,” the airline said.

But news reports suggest that the deal is all but done but that it wasn’t good news for pilots.

Levi Skogvang, chair of the Norwegian pilots union, told the Dagbladet newspaper that he was not pleased with the five-year agreement that had been made, but that it was good enough to bring the strike to an end.

“It’s a tragedy for the pilots, looked at solely on the basis of their contracts, but it’s good that we’re done and that we can get the planes up in the air again,” he told the newspaper.

“We have not managed to negotiate an improvement in our terms, but only got worse terms. It’s not a nice thing to do. The only thing that is nice is that we have a deal, and that we can get the planes up in the air again.” 

According to Norway’s state broadcaster NRK, under the deal, the pilots have agreed not to go on strike or seek higher pay for five years, and in return, the 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic will be given back their jobs. 

Newspaper VG reports that Aleksander Wasland, leader of the Norwegian Pilots’ Association, had told NRK that 450 pilots got their jobs back, before the comment was later officially withdrawn by the broadcaster. 

A majority of SAS pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway walked out on July 4 triggering a strike that SAS has said cost it between $94 million and $123 million a day, Reuters reported.

The strike also coincides with the busy summer season in northern Europe, normally a time for airlines to cash in on holidaymakers.

The Local will update this story as we get more information.

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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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