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Signs of imminent agreement as Scandinavian airline SAS and pilots negotiate overnight: analyst

Scandinavian airline SAS and pilots unions continued overnight talks on Sunday, but one aviation analyst believes the parties may be close to reaching an agreement to end the pilots strike, which entered its 14th day on Sunday.

An SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport
The current pilot strike in Denmark, Sweden and Norway could sink SAS, the company has warned. File photo: A SAS plane approaches Arlanda airport, north of Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Naclstrand / AFP.

“When you negotiate as intensively as the parties are now, you must expect that you start to approach a result,” said Sydbank aviation analyst Jacob Pedersen, Danish newswire Ritzau reported.

Previously, negotiations were put on hold at night and resumed the following day, but this time, the parties saw reason to continue negotiations overnight and into Sunday morning.

This indicated that an agreement could be imminent, Pedersen said, although he said he could not predict a timeline for this.

“I have no other good suggestions other than it must be close. Whether it will be Sunday, Monday or maybe Tuesday is more of an open question,” he added.

About 1,000 SAS pilots from Denmark, Norway and Sweden have been on strike since Monday, July 4th when talks over conditions related to the airline’s rescue plan broke down. In recent days, negotiations have resumed.

The pilots are protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company, and the firm’s decision not to re-hire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Axed pilots have had to compete against external applicants for jobs at SAS subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect on less favourable terms than at the main airline SAS Scandinavia.

SAS is in major financial difficulties, exacerbated by the pandemic, and is working to implement a cost-saving plan called SAS Forward to provide annual savings in the billions of Swedish krona.

According to Pedersen, it is crucial for SAS to reach an agreement soon.

“This strike must end as quickly as possible for SAS,” he said, explaining that they were losing money quickly and that their reputation with leisure travellers was also suffering huge damage.

“It’s important to get the planes in the air as soon as possible,” he added.

The strike has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day,  with 62 percent of SAS’ scheduled flights cancelled on Sunday, according to flight-tracking platform FlightAware. 

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STRIKES

Norwegian government forces teachers’ strike to an end

Teachers in Norway returned to work on Wednesday following a lengthy strike due to the Norwegian government forcing industrial action over wages to an end.

Norwegian government forces teachers' strike to an end

Norway’s government has ended the teachers’ strike and forced unions and The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) to a compulsory wage board.

“Unfortunately, the parties have not found a solution to the conflict. The strike is now leading to serious societal consequences for children and young people. I am particularly concerned about the pupils’ education, vulnerable children and young people and their mental health. After an overall assessment, I have therefore proposed a compulsory wage board,” Labour and Inclusion Minister Marte Mjøs Persen said in a statement.

Teachers decided to strike in June over wage growth in recent years. Unions said teachers had been the wage losers of collective bargaining agreements between KS and the public sector for the last six years.

KS maintained throughout the strike that it did not have the funds available that teachers were demanding. Around 8,500 teachers were on strike before the government brought industrial action to an end.

Over the past few weeks, several organisations called on the government to end the strike in the interest of students’ well-being.

Typically, strikes aren’t referred to the compulsory wage board in Norway unless there is a threat to public health.

Last week, unions met with KS and mediators, but the parties were unable to break through the deadlock.

“It is deeply regrettable that the government has chosen to intervene with a compulsory wage board. They now assume a great deal of responsibility for what has been the basis of the conflict,” Steffen Handal from the Norwegian Education Association said of the government’s decision.

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