SAS pilots threaten strike at end of April

Pilots working for the SAS airline across Scandinavia have threatened to strike at the end of April if their requests on working conditions aren't met by the employer.

SAS pilots threaten strike at end of April
SAS has suffered pilot shortages in recent months. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The notification of the possible strike came after unsuccessful negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement, with salary increases the biggest sticking point but other issues relating to working hours and scheduling.

The SAS Pilot group, which represents almost all (95 percent) of the airline's pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, has given notice of a strike if a compromise cannot be reached.

If the strike went ahead, Easter travel would not be affected, but it would begin from midnight on April 26th. 

A negotiator for Scandinavia's SAS airline has hit back at what he called the pilots' “unreasonable and extreme demands”.
“The pilots have an average salary of 93,000 SEK ($10,000) a month and their demands involve a 15 percent increase,” Torbjörn Granevärn, chief negotiator for the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises, told the Expressen newspaper, adding that the demands were “so extreme that they threatened job security and the sustainability of the company.”  

The SAS Pilot group has said that their salary requests are in line with the market rate.

Granevärn, who is handling the talks for SAS, complained that the leaders of the Swedish Pilot's Union had snubbed negotiations planned for Monday and instead decided to float the prospect of a strike in the media. 
“This represents a warning of a strike actions against the background of these extreme demands,” he said. “It's unfortunate as it leads to concern among SAS's customers.” 
Wilhelm Tersmeden, who chairs the SAS group at the Swedish Pilot's Union, instead blamed the airline for the break-down in negotiations. 
“My understanding is that SAS did not want to continue the talks,” he said. “For me it's pointless to sit with your mouth shut at a negotiating table when one side is just sitting there and saying 'no' to everything.” 
The Swedish National Mediation Office has now been called in to bring the two sides together. 
Granevärn said he was hopeful that the two sides would be able reach a solution before the planned strike becomes a reality. 

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Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany