Scandinavian SAS airline continues strike talks on Thursday

Talks between SAS and the Scandinavian pilot unions are set to continue on Thursday after ten hours of fraught negotiations on Wednesday failed to result in a deal.

Scandinavian SAS airline continues strike talks on Thursday
Planes of Scandinavian airline SAS sit on the tarmac in a row on July 4, 2022 at Oslo Airport Gardermoen (Photo by Beate Oma Dahle / NTB / AFP)

“It has gone up and down throughout the day, but we have chosen to continue tomorrow”, SAS’s chief negotiator Marianne Hernæs confirmed on Wednesday evening. “These are complex issues, so we need extra time. That is what the two sides are set on”.

Roger Klokset, leader of the Norwegian pilot union, did not want to comment on whether SAS had made any new offers, or how close the two sides had come to a deal.

“We have always had hope of finding a solution with SAS, we had that last time and we have it now. We have always been clear about what is needed, and that it is SAS management who decides whether we leave here with a solution or not,” he said. 

Jan Levi Skogvang, head of the SAS pilot union in Norway, told the Norwegian finance news website E24 as he went in to the talks on Wednesday that unions expected SAS to make a new offer. 

“If they don’t do that, we’re ready to walk out after ten minutes. It’s up to SAS,” he said. 

The fact that talks instead extended for ten hours suggests that SAS has ceded some ground. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Aviation analysts have said that a deal could come within days, but even then it could take several more days before flights can resume. 

In a press release issued on Thursday morning, SAS estimated that the strike had so far cost it between 1.0 and 1.3 billion Swedish kronor (€94m), with a total of 2,550 cancelled flights impacting 270,000 passengers. 

If the strike continued, the airline said, it would struggle to raise necessary emergency financing. 

“In such a scenario, the company will need to consider the forced same of valuable strategic assets, and at the same time significantly scale down the SAS operation and fleet, if there is no breakthrough in negotiations with the pilots.” 

Analysts estimate that it could take several days to get the flights back to normal in the event of a deal. 

Many planes have been parked during the strike, and therefore must clear mechanical security procedures before flying again.

In addition, a sympathy strike by Copenhagen airplane mechanics has meant there is a backlog in mandatory plane checks, adding to the time it will take to get SAS’s fleet ready. According to regulations, safety checks should be conducted every three days.

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SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of Danish SAS pilots have approved the agreement that ended strike action last month.

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of the Danish SAS pilots have voted yes to an agreement which ended strike action but also means, among other things, redeployments, longer working weeks and lower wages.

This was announced by Dansk Metal on Saturday morning. The pilots could have voted yes or no on the new collective agreement until midnight on Friday evening.

Pilots in Sweden and Norway have also approved the agreement.

Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, said “I am incredibly happy. It is a bit atypical to see that a collective agreement negotiation ends in agreements being made that reduce wages and conditions.”

“So of course it was exciting how our members viewed the new collective agreement. But they could also see that it was a necessity in relation to SAS’s situation,” he added.

The agreement comes after months of tug-of-war that finally saw SAS and the striking pilots reach a collective agreement on 19 July. It helped end a two-week strike.

Part of the background to the conflict between SAS and the pilots was that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS dismissed around half of its pilots.

With the new collective agreement, however, all 450 dismissed pilots will be offered re-employment in the future.

At the same time, SAS pilots will see a 25 percent pay cut, and the limit for the workload is raised from 47 hours to 60 hours per week.

But even with strike action over and a collective agreement supported by pilots, the problems are far from over for SAS, which has suffered major financial losses during the conflict.

Currently, the airline plans to begin a reconstruction in the United States under bankruptcy protection in a so-called Chapter 11 process.

Bankruptcy protection will mean that SAS can continue to operate and pay wages while the process is ongoing.

SAS is seeking financing of up to $700 million- slightly more than DKK 5.1 billion.

SAS press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said in a statement: “We are very happy and look forward to continuing our ongoing Chapter 11 process and our work to ensure a strong and sustainable airline for many years to come.The positive result of the vote will help SAS to attract long-term investors while we go through the Chapter 11 process and work further with the SAS Forward plan.”