Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) management claims they were “very surprised” when their pilots’ unions in Norway, Denmark and Sweden warned on Tuesday that they may go out on strike. Plans had called for more talks next week but now they’re heading into mediation.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Tuesday afternoon that if mediation fails to settle differences between SAS and the pilots, they’ll call a strike from April 26. Easter holiday travel won’t be affected, but the strike warning makes travel on SAS after Easter uncertain, and can also put a chill on ticket sales.
The strike warning came from SAS Pilot Group (SPG), which consists of SAS pilots in the three Scandinavian countries. Negotiations broke down in Norway and Sweden last week and on Monday in Denmark.
“This was very surprising,” SAS’ information chief Knut-Morten Johansen told DN. “The plan was to meet again on April 8. It’s only through the (pilots’) press release that we register they won’t be coming back to the negotiating table.”
The pilots claim SAS has chosen to do away with established agreements on cooperation, production, career development and seniority. SPG can’t understand why these agreements apparently are no longer compatible with a future-oriented SAS when they’ve served well for many years. The pilots pointed to SAS’ renewed profitability in recent years, and more stable costs.
“SAS wants to portray negotiations as a fight for unnatural limits on the rights of management, but that’s totally wrong,” claim representatives for the Norwegian pilots in SPG. “Our demand is that the agreements and the intentions behind them be respected.”
Johansen said the airline wants “more conversations in order to find a solution.” He wouldn’t go into detail about some “unreasonable” pilot demands that allegedly are not compatible with keeping SAS competitive. DN reported that the pilots’ demands involve not only working contitions but also a pay hike that’s higher than inflation in the three countries. SAS’ Scandinavian pilots have also been unhappy about how SAS set up a subsidiary in Ireland and bases in London and Malaga. They don’t want SAS to further expand those operations.
SAS’ Norwegian pilots also complained about a lack of control and predictability over their work schedules. The majority of pilots, they claim, only know that they’ll have just one weekend off in the month ahead and may end up having to work seven weekends in a row. Being unable “to plan your own life” is difficult, with the pilots demanding a much better overview of when they’ll need to work and when they’ll be off.
Asked whether customers would be gambling if they bought tickets for flights at the end of April, Johansen told DN: “No, no. We expect we’ll reach an agreement.”