Turbulence still flies around SAS
The pilots of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) did not adhere to the strike agreement signed between their unions and the management of the airline. They have yet to review and approve the deal that at least temporarily ended their 15-day strike, and if they don’t, they can effectively resume their strike from mid-August.
Union leaders admitted to Norwegian media that they did not know if the settlement would be allowed to land. The mood among the pilots gathered in Oslo for a review meeting of the deal late last week was mixed, with some resigned to accepting its terms and others complaining that “we were forced to buy our jobs. Many also don’t like how the deal spans just over five years, with no possibility of renegotiation until 2027.
“People are relieved that we have prevailed on some of the most important points,” Roger Klokset, who heads one of SAS’s two pilot unions in Norway, told the newspaper. post office just before the weekend, “but our members need a few days to digest all this and understand what it means for their daily work over the next few years”.
SAS pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark have two weeks from the day they receive the details of the settlement until they need to vote digitally to approve or reject it. If a majority rejects it, the pilots will no longer have a collective agreement with SAS, and will therefore find themselves in a legal conflict with management. They can then strike again five days later, if no new agreement is reached. This would happen around mid-August.
When asked if he thought his members would approve of the deal, Klokset replied, “I don’t know. We had a mixed response. Jan Levi Skogvang, leader of SAS’s other pilots’ union in Norway, confirmed the lack of enthusiasm for the settlement. “It’s hard to say ‘what’s going to happen,’ Skogvang said post office.
Both men received a standing ovation for their efforts when they met with members at the orientation meeting held shortly after the strike ended earlier last week. Many pilots were also happy to get back into the cockpit and start flying, as SAS first tried to get stranded passengers home and then got all flights back on schedule. The disruption continued through the weekend, even after the strike canceled more than 300,000 flights and cost the airline well over NOK 1 billion.
The pilots also reportedly objected to several parts of the settlement in Denmark, where the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv (DN) reported how some unions have pitted against each other. Union members received details of the agreement on Thursday, also in Sweden.
While 450 pilots made redundant during the pandemic will return to their jobs and the regulations will apply to all pilots regardless of the new airline unit they work for, pilot unions have lost on several counts. Their working hours will increase, they will have to work more in the summer than during other seasons of the year, they will have to accept a 5% pay cut and their contract will last for 5.5 years, instead of a alone or two years as is the custom in Norway. The longer contract was a victory for SAS management, which has opposed “a strike culture” at the airline that still needs to attract new capital from new investors. SAS pilots have gone on strike three times in the past five years.
Some pilots expressed their anger on the deal, with Tom Heradsveit telling post office that “we were stuck” and comparing it to how unions were crushed in the United States in the 1990s, after industry deregulation led to fierce competition that also spread to Europe .
“We want clarification and peace between us and our employer,” said another pilot, Rune Svello, who believes the pilots have “stretched far” to achieve the two. “And I think those elected to represent the drivers have a much broader view of the situation than I do. Then they need our support and our help.
Meanwhile, there have been signs of public support for the airline, with small shareholders buying shares and pushing the share price higher over the past two weeks, albeit from very low levels. . SAS filed for creditor protection under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code the day after the strike began, but is now facing compensation claims from passengers whose flights were canceled , lawsuits from tour operators and fierce competition from upstart airlines that don’t have all the expensive employment contracts that SAS had. The Danish government has expressed a willingness to invest more capital in the airline, while the Norwegian and Swedish governments remain skeptical.