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Norwegian shocks union with text message threat

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Norwegian shocks union with text message threat
Norwegian Airlines founder Bjørn Kjos. Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix
09:48 CEST+02:00
Norwegian Air Shuttle staff announced a strike on Wednesday morning, after the airline's management brought weeks of negotiations to an angry conclusion with a threatening text message to all company staff.
At 10pm last night, Norwegian Air Shuttle's staff received a text message threatening severe consequences for the 1,300 cabin crew members. 
 
The text message threatened that if the strike went ahead, it would close three of the airline's four bases in Norway, forcing cabin crew living in Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim to move to Oslo, transfer all Copenhagen cabin crew to an agency, and suspend cheap tickets for staff's family members for three years. 
 
"What the company wanted was to scare people but it has had the quite opposite effect," Arve Sigmundstad, a press officer for Norway's Parat Union, told The Local. 
 
He said that the union had already received hundreds of messages from cabin crew, telling union staff "how pissed off they were" and encouraging officials "not to be threatened into silence". 
 
"None of them have asked us to back off," he said.  
 
Norwegian spokeswoman Anne-Sissel Skånvik denied that the message was intended to intimidate employees. 
 
"I have not sent a 'threatening text message' to our employees," she wrote in an email to The Local. "It is, however, correct that a message was sent out from our negotiation team after a board meeting last night, because Parat has been holding back information regarding the consequences of a potential strike." 
 
In a press release on Wednesday, Norwegian's chief executive Bjørn Kjos expressed his regret to the company's  customers that it had been unable to reach an agreement with the unions. 
 
“We would like to say sorry to all our passengers for the uncertainty this has caused," it said. "Our goal has always been to avoid a strike and we have gone to great lengths to accommodate the Cabin Union. However, the company cannot accept demands that involve reversing strategic decisions taken by Norwegian’s board in order to secure the company’s future."
 
Sigmundstad said that the text message represented a shocking departure from Norway's traditionally harmonious relations between unions and business leaders.  
 
"This is not something that were used to," he said. "At first we were surprised and then we were saddened." 
 
At present just one Norwegian staff member, Renè-Charles Gustavsen, is mounting a "strategic strike". The rest will go on strike once the company's Danish employees are allowed to under local regulations. 
 
"It will be not sooner than five days and not later than 18 days," Sigmundstad said. 
 
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