Talks drag on for SAS and its pilots

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Negotiations between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and its Norwegian short-haul pilots had extended 14 hours into overtime by mid-afternoon on Thursday, after the two sides failed to reach a settlement by a midnight deadline on Wednesday. If no agreement is reached, more than 400 pilots will be called off the job, severely disrupting SAS flights in Norway.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) won't be flying much over Norway if 435 of its short-haul pilots go on strike. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) won’t be flying much over Norway if 435 of its short-haul pilots go on strike. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

SAS officials seemed optimistic Wednesday evening, with spokesman Knut Morten Johansen claiming that both sides were keen to come to terms. “We have faith that we will reach an agreement,” Johansen told news bureau NTB just before midnight. Flights would continue to run as scheduled as long as the talks continued.

Johansen said Thursday morning, after talks had gone on all night long, that not much had changed. He urged passengers holding tickets on SAS flights to check the company’s own website (external link) for specific flight information.

Officials at Avinor, the state agency that runs most Norwegian airports, were preparing for a strike at OSL Gardermoen Thursday morning. “A strike would be dramatic for SAS and its passengers,” Kristian Løksa, communications chief for Avinor, told state broadcaster NRK, “but we’ll manage to handle it.”

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported that the thorniest issue is over SAS’ need to have more pilots on the job during the busy summer holiday period. SAS pilots also want to take summer holiday, and aren’t willing to relinquish built-up rights to take holiday on their terms, not the airline’s. As a result, SAS has often had to park aircraft because of a lack of pilots to fly them.

At least they agreed to keep talking as the midnight deadline passed. with Johansen claiming that SAS was “determined to reach an agreement.” Only SAS’ “short-haul” pilots would be affected, meaning that SAS’s daily flight from Oslo to New York and other long-haul flights from Stockholm and Copenhagen would run as scheduled.

SAS’ Swedish pilots were also facing a strike deadline this week, on Friday, which also could lead to disruption. SAS’ Danish pilots are not involved in contract negotiations this year.

Another strike could close OSL Gardermoen on Friday
As efforts continued to avert strikes at SAS, another loomed at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. More than 500 security guards at the airport may be called off the job on Friday, if their union fails to come to terms with employers’ organization NHO Service.

A new round of mediation began on Thursday between the security guards’ union, Parat, and NHO Service. The two sides failed to agree on a new revised contract after NHO reportedly refused to give guards compensation tied to their responsibility, competence and the risks they take.

Officials at OSL Gardermoen said they will need to close the airport for all departing passengers if Parat calls around 500 security guards off the job from 6am Friday. The guards work at security checkpoints, in the baggage area and in other areas of the airport.

“With such a large reduction in capacity, the departure hall will fill quickly and present major security challenges,” said OSL spokesman Joachim Westher Andersen. “We don’t want a situation where we risk life and health for travelers, so if there’s a strike, we will close the airport for departing passengers.

Those arriving with Oslo as their final destination will only be affected if they have connecting flights from OSL Gardermoen.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund