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ANALYSIS: Why are SAS pilots on strike?

SAS pilots are causing travel misery for thousands but how do they justify their strike action?

Pictured is an SAS aircraft.
This is why SAS pilots have gone on strike. File photo: A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP.

As many as 900 pilots in Denmark, Norway and Sweden are participating in a strike which SAS has warned will affect 30,000 passengers each day the strike continues

Unions announced that strikes would go ahead after the deadline for the two parties to find an agreement was pushed back several times

When strike action was confirmed, union reps said that the gap between what pilots wanted and what was offered was too far to be bridged with negotiations. 

“We have not succeeded in agreeing with SAS. We have been in long, long negotiations. We have come a long way. We have tried to reach an agreement but experienced that no matter how far we go, it will never be enough,” Martin Lindgren from the Swedish Pilot Association and leader of the SAS Pilot Group told business and financial site E24

The gap between the parties stems from two issues. Firstly, pilots are unhappy with the wages and working conditions offered by SAS. Unions have said that pilots were willing to take a five percent pay cut and work longer hours to strike a deal. 

READ ALSO: How long could the SAS pilot strike last?

However, the bigger issue for SAS pilots is that instead of re-employing those SAS pilots who were laid off during cutbacks caused by the pandemic, priority is instead being given to hiring new pilots on cheaper deals in two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect.

The creation of the two subsidiaries came at a similar time as when 560 pilots lost their jobs due to the airline slashing costs across the board. 

Meanwhile, the airline has argued that hiring new pilots to the subsidiaries is an essential part of cost-cutting practices to ensure the airline’s survival. The airline has said that the subsidiaries are a vital step in attempting to cut costs by 7.5 billion kroner annually as part of the firm’s SAS Forward plan. 

In contrast, pilots’ representatives argue that using subsidiaries was a form of union-busting and goes against the Scandinavian working model. 

Last week, Roger Klokset, head of the Norwegian SAS pilots’ association, told newspaper VG said they were willing to see the company go under if needs be. 

“Yes. Undoubtedly if the company fails to relate to the Scandinavian model, we believe that is an actor that doesn’t have the right to life,” Klokset told VG. 

Member comments

  1. Why on earth did you deleted my previous post.
    This strike is totally legit and as an Air France pilot having had the luck to be in a country where a national airline is deemed essential, we we given gazillions of Euro, just like Lufthansa, to hold our head aboute the water. Why haven’t Scandinavian country don’t the same.
    But, the core of the problem is that SAS pilot had a promise ( years ) to be rehired once the pandemic would be over.
    I choke when I read pilots have a strike culture !!
    A contract is a contract. How do you expect to speak of loyalty when such practices are in place ?

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BUSINESS

Airline Norwegian says passenger numbers up this summer

Low-cost airline Norwegian says it is operating flights close to full capacity in a marked improvement on performance in recent years.

Airline Norwegian says passenger numbers up this summer

Traffic figures for the company for July show that seat occupancy on flights was 95 percent, the highest level for several years.

A total of 2.2 million passengers used the company last month, three times as many as in the Covid-affected month of July 2021.

“It has been a good summer for Norwegian,” CEO Geir Karlsen said in a statement on Thursday.

“We had the highest occupancy level for many years in July and operated almost all flights despite many and major challenges for aviation in Europe,” he said.

July 2019 saw a higher number of passengers fly with Norwegian, however. The total that month was 3.7 million.

The airline has struggled in recent years including before the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in it cutting long haul services and filing for bankruptcy protection in 2020.

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