Strike averted at Norwegian Air

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Pilots and management at Norwegian Air came to terms Monday morning, heading off a strike that would have grounded flights and seriously disrupted airline traffic on Norwegian’s domestic and European routes. Both sides claimed they were satisfied, with the pilots retaining their pay, pensions and benefits.

Norwegian Air's chief executive Bjørn Kjos, a pilot himself, is still smiling despite lots of turbulence with the airline's new long-haul routes. Now he's counting on growth through new routes to and from the US. PHOTO: Norwegian

Norwegian Air’s chief executive Bjørn Kjos, a pilot himself, could smile again on Monday after his airline averted a strike with its 603 Scandinavian pilots. PHOTO: Norwegian

Norwegian chief executive Bjørn Kjos told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he’d “stayed on the sidelines” during the marathon negotiations that ran through the weekend between pilots’ union Parat and airline employers’ organization NHO Luftfart.

Kjos started to take part in the talks during the night, though, and that’s why the negotiations continued long past the midnight deadline on Sunday.

“We’re very glad that we can keep flying as usual and that passengers won’t be bothered by a strike,” Kjos told NRK.

The pilots were pleased that they’ll get their old pensions restored, guaranteeing them a certain percentage of their income at retirement. The pilots’ pay and benefits agreements will also continue so they won’t face the prospect of pay cuts or loss of benefits built up over the years.

They will, however, be transferred to a new subsidiary that some had likened to a crewing agency, but won assurances the new unit will honor the pacts hammered out by Parat. Norwegian Air Shuttle will soon function mostly as a holding company, with the airlines’ various operations carried out through new subsidiaries.

“Everyone has to give and take,” Kjos told NRK, denying that the settlement was a full victory for the pilots since most of their wage and benefits demands seem to have been met. Norwegian management won its effort to restructure the airline itself, a move that Kjos claimed will nurture efforts “to build a Norwegian for the future.”

The goal all along, he claimed, was to ensure competitiveness in a global industry. The pilots’ union representative agreed it was “important to build a system” that will keep Norwegian competitive in the years ahead.

Neither side would go into details of the agreement but both claimed they were relieved and satisfied. It apparently took a full-blown labour conflict and serious strike threat to bring the two sides ultimately together. “No one gets a full victory here,” Kjos said. “Like in most settlements, it usually ends in a tie.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund