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SAS pilots’ strike: What’s the latest? 

Pilot unions from Norway, Denmark and Sweden have agreed to resume talks with SAS. Does this mean we are close to an agreement to end strike action? 

Pictured is an SAS flight taking off in Germany
SAS and pilots' unions appear no closer to returning to the negotiating table as the strike enters its second week. File photo: An SAS plane takes off at dusk from Tegel airport in Berlin. Photo by AFP / Odd Andersen.

Recap: Why are pilots striking? 

Last Monday, unions representing Scandinavian Airline (SAS) pilots from Norway, Sweden and Denmark decided to go on strike, a move the company said would disrupt 30,000 passengers per day. 

Pilots have said they are unhappy with the wages and working conditions offered by SAS

However, the bigger issue for SAS pilots is that instead of re-employing those SAS pilots who were laid off during cutbacks caused by the pandemic, priority is being given to hiring new pilots on cheaper deals in two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect. 

The airline has said that the subsidiaries are crucial to the company’s plans to cut costs to stay afloat. 

What is happening on Wednesday? 

Direct negotiations between the three countries’ pilot unions and the airline will restart at the offices of the Swedish National Mediation Office in Stockholm, unions confirmed on Tuesday. This came after the airline’s management issued a press release on Monday in which they offered to make further concessions. 

How long could the strike continue? 

Aviation experts seem to be more positive today, the two Danish analysts telling the Ritzau newswire that the conflict could be solved within days. 

On the day the strike began, aviation experts feared that it wouldn’t be short-lived due to the large gulf between what the pilots and airline wanted. 

The length of the current strike already surpassing the six-day strike pilots called in 2019. 

On Sunday, relations between the two parties deteriorated after SAS pilots decided to stop flying charter passengers home because they believe the airline has breached its side of the agreement.

Pilots had earlier agreed to break the strike to fly stranded charter passengers home if there were no or limited options available. 

Henning Jørgensen, Professor Emeritus in Labour market research at Aalborg University, told Danish newswire Ritzau that the latest decision to not fly stranded travellers home showed a lack of trust between both parties involved in the conflict.

“If you can’t work out how to trust each other, the parties are too far from entering negotiations again. That’s what I see as the main problem: When trust is broken down on both sides, it is difficult to find a solution.”

The professor said that he thought the strike might be forced to an end by politicians. For example, in Norway, the government recently ended an air technician strike as they feared it could affect public health by grounding air ambulances. 

Health leaders from the north of Norway met on Monday afternoon to discuss the consequences of the SAS strike pilot, which health trusts have said made it difficult to get key personnel to work, as flights are often used to cover large distances in the north, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Have there been any fresh talks? 

On Sunday, the Norwegian SAS pilots’ trade union held a status meeting with mediators in Stockholm, head of the union Roger Klokset confirmed to newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

The meeting was at the initiative of Swedish mediators, and both parties were present, Klokset said.

Swedish newswire TT reports that both sides are holding daily meetings with mediators but have so far not agreed to resume negotiations.

Jan Levi Skogvang, from union SAS Norge Flygerforening, told NRK on Monday that the parties were still where they were a week ago. 

Ritzau reports that Danish representatives wouldn’t be involved in any talks with the ombudsman or airline on Monday. 

What is SAS doing for affected passengers? 

The airline is offering passengers the opportunity to rebook tickets on SAS-operated flights between July 11th and July 16th 2022, without paying a fee. The ticket can be rebooked within the next 360 days. The offer applies to tickets bought before June 23rd 2022. 

Passengers whose tickets are cancelled will have some rights under EU legislation. These include the right to choose between getting your money back, getting the next available flight, or changing the booking completely for a later date. 

You are also entitled to assistance free of charge, including refreshments, food, accommodation (if you are rebooked to travel the next day), transport, and communication (two telephone calls, for example). This is regardless of the reasons for cancellation.

EU air passenger rights apply to you if your flight is within the EU or Schengen zone, if it arrives in the EU/Schengen zone from outside the bloc and is operated by an EU-based airline, or if it departs from the EU/ Schengen zone.

READ MORE: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

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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.”