Strike threat looms at Norwegian Air

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There’s been a lot of legal maneuvering this week, but Norwegian Air remains threatened by its first strike ever after failing to resolve a conflict with the airline’s 570 pilots. The pilots also have won the support of their counterparts at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Widerøe.

Norwegian may be nosing into a strike. PHOTO: Norwegian Air

The main labour organization behind the pilot unions agreed to support the Norwegian pilots’ demand for the right to full employment, not just short-term work contracts. Employers’ organization NHO Luftfart, meanwhile, believes the pilots’ pay and employment demands are illegal and is filing suit in a special labour court. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that NHO thinks Norwegian Air made a mistake when it entered into a tariff agreement that applied to all the company’s pilots, regardless of whether they were based in Norway, Sweden or Denmark. Nina Melsom of NHO said such a Norwegian labour agreement can only apply in Norway.

The pilots, however, claim their agreement is valid and they want to add to it, by demanding that Norwegian offer full-time jobs, not short-term contracts, to new pilots as the airline enters a major period of expansion. Norwegian’s management wants to be able to secure new pilots through temporary employment agencies at bases in Finland and Spain, to keep costs down.

The pilots’ union boss said employment terms need to be addressed through negotiations, not the labour court, adding that NHO’s claim is diverting attention from the main issues.

The union still hasn’t delivered a plassoppsigelse, a formal rejection of the pilots’ current agreement with Norwegian, which would clear the way for new negotiations, forced mediation and a strike. A strike may not only be tied to the full-time work demands. “That’s our main demand, but if a labour court says its illegal, we have other demands that also haven’t been accepted by Norwegian,” Christen Horn Johannessen of pilots’ union Parat told news bureau NTB. It’s unknown when a strike might occur, but the pilots must give at least 14 days notice. NHO has secured a date in court on May 22, so it may not occur until after then.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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