A late-night pact reached at around 2am on Wednesday headed off a threatened strike by flight attendants at low-fare carrier Norwegian Air. It would have been the first strike in Norwegian’s 10-year history, but other conflicts loom.
Negotiators for the flight attendants and the airline came to terms after Norwegian offered guarantees to preserve permanent and full-time jobs in Norway. The guarantees are similar to those secured by Norwegian pilots earlier this year. Several other pay and work-rule issues were also resolved.
The airline has stirred controversy by hiring in foreign pilots and flight attendants through overseas employment agencies, often with little job security and lower pay and benefits. That practice may continue, however, as Norwegian Air expands with intercontinental routes to Asian destinations. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that the airline is seeking a special exemption from regulations that restrict use of foreign cabin crews, because the airline claims it can’t commit to hiring full-time permanent staff until it’s sure its new routes to Thailand, for example, will be profitable. Norwegian Air will then be competing directly against foreign carriers with lower personnel costs such as THAI Airways and Qatar Airways.
Norwegian’s more than 800 unionized flight attendants appeared pleased with their new agreement, at least for now. A strike would have grounded most if not all Norwegian flights around Europe and a state mediator said both sides were keen to avoid such disruption for passengers.