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UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway have agreed to extend talks with the SAS airline until midday on Monday, after a deadline on Saturday passed without a deal. SAS flights scheduled for this weekend will fly as normal.

UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday
Flight passengers stand at a service point of Scandinavian airline SAS at Terminal 3 of the Copenhagen airport on July 2, 2022, the day a deadline ends for negotiations between SAS airline and pilots threatening strike action. Photo: Claus Bech / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) Denmark OUT

The Swedish pilots’ union SPF and other unions have been negotiating for weeks, with the deadline for a strike extended from midnight on Friday, to 11am on Saturday morning, and now until midday on Monday.

“We need to sleep, no one has slept with us for a very long time,” SAS’s chief negotiator, Marianne Hernæs, told Sweden’s TT newswire.

“We’ll meet again tomorrow. Now I am going home and sleeping, I have not slept for many hours,” Keld Bækkelund Hansen, leader of the Danish trade union Dansk Metal, told Denmark’s Ritzau newswire. 

Hernæs said that the two sides were still “extremely far away from one another” when it came to their positions. 

On June 9, the pilot unions of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark submitted their notice to strike on June 29th, with the strike then postponed until July 1st, then again until July 2nd, and now until Monday the 4th. If negotiations do not succeed, 900 pilots could go on strike at midnight.

Flights from SAS subsidiaries, SAS Connect, SAS Link, Cityjet Xfly and Air Baltic were unlikely to be directly affected by the pilot strike.

The SAS management and SPF have been in intensive negotiations for several weeks on a new collective agreement.

The Swedish pilot union believes that SAS is circumventing the right to re-employment by using staff from two subsidiaries as temporary labourers. 

Some 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic have not been re-employed.

After negotiations continued all night last night, the situation remains unclear but is progressing, according to the chief negotiator.

“We regret this situation we are in but we actually try everything we can,” says Marianne Hernæs.

Harsh criticism

On Friday, Norwegian put heavy pressure on SAS when the Norwegian pilot union threatened to drive the company into bankruptcy.

The Swedish pilot union also sharply criticized SAS’s negotiating position on Friday.

“An employer who tries to organize away from employer responsibility and agreements entered into by starting a letterbox company has nothing to do with the Swedish labor market and lacks justification for existence”, Martin Lindgren, chairman of the SAS section at the Swedish Pilot Association, said in a written comment to TT.

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SAS

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

More than 3,700 flights where cancelled and 380,000 passengers where affected by the 15-day strike which hit Scandinavia's SAS airline last month, the company has revealed.

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

“We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected by the July strike,” Anko van der Werff, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We are happy operations returned to normality again allowing us to start regaining our customers’ trust.”

According to the release, 1.3 million passengers travelled with the airline in July, which was still a 23 percent increase on the same month last year, when Covid-19 restrictions were still reducing tourism levels.

“In comparison with last month, the total number of passengers decreased with 32 percent and capacity was decreased by 23 percent, which was a result from the 15-day pilot strike,” the release read. 

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, went on strike for 15 days last month over pay, conditions, and the company’s refusal to rehire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic on the same terms as before. 

The strike, which cost the airline between €9m and €12m a day, was ended on July 19th, after which it took several days to get flights back to normal

Van der Werff said company said it would now continue putting in place its restructuring plan, SAS FORWARD, and push ahead with restructuring in the US, where the company has filed for Chapter 11. 

He said these would both “accelerate the transformation process that will lead to a financially stable airline, that will be able to deliver the service our customers are expecting”. 

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