SAS avoids strike, another averted

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UPDATED: After marathon negotiations that extended into more than 17 hours of overtime, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and the union representing 435 of its pilots came to terms late Thursday afternoon. Their agreement headed off a disruptive strike among the airline’s short-haul pilots in Norway, and another that could have closed Oslo’s main airport on Friday was later averted as well.

At SAS it's suddenly a feeling of "up, up and away," after a tough period of historic turbulence. Norwegians seem more than ready to fly. PHOTO: SAS

SAS flights will continue to run as scheduled, after a strike by its short-haul pilots in Norway finally was averted on Thursday afternoon. Another strike, however, loomed at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. PHOTO: SAS

A pilots’ strike would have severely disrupted SAS flights both within Norway and to destinations around Europe, just before a busy summer weekend and as the country’s main tourism season gets underway.

The agreement between SAS, the employers’ organization Norsk Cockpitforbund and the labour organization SAS Norge Pilotforeningen (SNP) was reached with the help of state mediator Nils Dalseide, who told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the parties involved were exhausted after day and night negotiations.

They’d failed to settle their differences by their midnight deadline on Wednesday but opted to keep talking. SAS officials said all along that its “firm intention” was to “reach an agreement as soon as possible” and avoid a strike that would hurt both passengers, the airline’s reputation and its bottom line after it recently has made an economic comeback.

Dalseide had characterized the talks as “constructive” at midday as negotiations dragged on. Newspaper Dagens Næringliv (DN) had reported earlier in the week that the thorniest issue involved SAS’ desire to have more scheduling flexibility during the busy summer season, while pilots wanted to retain rights built up over the years to take summer holiday.

Details of their settlement were not immediately available but both sides were relieved there would be no strike. Pilots’ union officials said they were “satisfied” with the result that will give them “a few more choices” and scheduling predictability for part-time pilots, better terms for the union’s youngest pilots and better staffing in the summer months.

SAS passengers couldn’t entirely relax however. SAS’ Swedish pilots were also threatening to walk off the job on Friday, launching another strike that also could affect SAS’ traffic in Norway.

Hundreds of security guards at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen were also set to be called off the job on Friday as well, if their union Parat failed to come to terms with employers’ organization NHO Service. Airport officials warned they’d need to close the airport, if no guards were available to staff security checkpoints, but agreement was reached during the night and no strike was called. The security guards, also those working in many other branches, won more recogition and compensation and OSL Gardermoen would remain open as usual.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund