SAS pilots prepared for a lengthy strike

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The leader of one of the labour unions representing SAS pilots in Norway claimed Friday afternoon that they’re prepared for a lengthy strike against Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). As the posturing continued on both sides, hundreds more SAS flights were cancelled on Saturday.

“The morale is incredibly high,” Christian Laulund, an SAS captain who leads the Norske SAS flygeres forening, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We have the willingness within the corps to mount a real uproar against the work schedules we have have in the airline, and to get decent conditions like other European companies have.”

Mum on 13 percent pay hike demand
He and others have claimed that the most important issue for the pilots is more predictable work schedules. They often don’t know when they’ll need to work and be away from from home until two weeks before a new month begins. In the worst cases, some pilots have to work seven weekends in a row, since they’re only guaranteed one weekend off each month.

The already relatively highly paid pilots are also, however, demanding pay raises of as much as 13 percent. Laulund refused to discuss pay, and didn’t mention how pilots work far less actual hours than most others because of limits on flying time. SAS management representatives have branded the pay and work demands as “impossible” to meet. SAS’ CEO Rickard Gustafson nonetheless called on the pilots to return to the bargaining table and resume a “constructive dialogue.”

When asked why the pilots feel they deserve roughly four times the pay raises granted other labour groups in Norway so far this year, Laulund wouldn’t answer, saying neither he nor others were allowed to go into detail about the negotiations and mediation that fell apart during the night.

673 flights cancelled on Friday
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the pilots’ unions are demanding work schedules where they’ll all work five days and then have four days off, on a regular basis.

Asked whether the strike can be long, though, Laulund replied: “Absolutely.”

That’s bad news for the hundreds of thousands of SAS passengers holding tickets on SAS flights over the next several days and weeks. New statistics released Friday show that 34,000 will be affected when nearly all SAS flights are grounded on Saturday. The number of those affected on Friday increased, to an estimated 72,000 people ticketed on any of the 673 flights cancelled throughout the course of the day.

Norway’s other domestic airlines, Norwegian and Widerøe, were sold out during the weekend. The country’s state railway now known as Vy (formerly NSB) also reported heavy demand for seats.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund