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SAS strike: What can be expected from fresh talks Monday? 

Negotiations to end the SAS pilot strike in Sweden, Denmark and Norway resumed Monday. But are the parties any closer to an agreement, or will talks break down? 

Talks to end the SAS strike in Norway, Sweden and Denmark resumed on Monday morning.
Grounded SAS planes at Arlanda airport near Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/ AFP

SAS and pilots’ representatives returned to the negotiating table on Monday morning after pausing talks Sunday evening. 

The pause followed a 33-hour negotiation marathon, where the parties continued bargaining through the night on Saturday evening, which analysts had suggested could be a sign the parties were close to an agreement. 

Talks approaching ‘end of the road’

Chief negotiator for SAS, Marianne Hernæs, said today’s talks could be decisive in determining whether a deal could be struck or negotiations break down again. 

“It is starting to become irresponsible to continue. That is where we are approaching today,” she told reporters in Stockholm. 

As well as suggesting that the battle to find an agreement may be “lost” she said that the mediation process would only continue if the parties were close to striking a deal. 

“If we are close to a solution with only a few small things left, then we can consider a couple of hours more, but we will soon be at the end of the road,” Hernæs said. 

She added that a decision on ending mediation talks would be made by SAS management if an agreement isn’t found today. 

Ombudsman Mats Ruland was more optimistic when speaking to the press this morning and said that the parties had made steady progress in recent days. 

“I hope we can get a solution. That is my goal here, and I have not given up yet,” he said to reporters outside Näringslivets Hus, where talks are taking place. 

Jan Levi Skogvang, at talks on behalf of  SAS pilots represented by the union Parat, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that unions were also working towards securing a deal which would bring an end to strike action today. 

“We are working to finish, (we) hope SAS does the same,” he said. 

Roger Klokset, chairman of the Norwegian pilot association, told NRK that the group he heads would be willing to continue talks beyond today if necessary. 

Are the parties any closer to an agreement? 

On Sunday, Jacob Pedersen, aviation analyst at Sydbank, predicted that the parties were close to an agreement. 

“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 told Danish newswire Ritzau. 

READ MORE: Signs of ‘imminent’ agreement as Scandinavian airline SAS and pilots negotiate overnight

Meanwhile, Claes Stråth, one of the mediators involved in the process, said that progress was being made. 

“We have made a list of around 25 areas to be addressed, and many of them have now been reviewed,” he told Swedish newswire TT.

SAS also opened strongly on the Norwegian stock market on Monday morning, rising 8 percent minutes after opening. By 10:30am, shares had increased by 15.41 percent, which indicates the market is optimistic that the parties in Stockholm will be able to find an end to the strike. 

According to NRK, a key sticking point in the negotiations is the duration of the agreement to be made since re-negotiation and strikes won’t be allowed during that period. SAS is pushing for a deal for six, eight, or ten years, while a shorter term would benefit the pilots.  

Pilots are striking over wage cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan to keep the airline afloat and the practice of not re-hiring pilots laid off during the pandemic. 

Axed staff have had to compete against external applications for roles with subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect on less favourable terms than with the main airline SAS Scandinavia.

READ ALSO: Why are SAS pilots on strike?

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘A game changer’: Airlines demand EU explain new border system for non-EU travellers

Industry associations representing airlines have called on European authorities to plan a “public communications campaign” to alert non-EU nationals about new requirements to enter and exit the Schengen area.

'A game changer': Airlines demand EU explain new border system for non-EU travellers

The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will record the biometric data (finger prints and facial recognition) of non-EU citizens travelling for short stays to the Schengen area (EU countries minus Ireland, Romania and Bulgaria, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), each time they cross the external borders.

Fully digital, the system will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. The data collected will be kept in a centralised database shared among the Schengen countries.

The EES was created to tighten up border security and will ensure the enforcement of the 90-day limit in any 180-day period for tourists and visitors. But it requires changes in the infrastructure at the external borders, including airports, and the setting up of a new digital infrastructure to connect authorities in participating countries.

Its entry into operation has already been delayed several times. The latest date for the EES launch was May this year, but last week European authorities decided to postpone it again “due to delays from the contractors”. It is now expected to enter into force at the end of 2023, as The Local reported this week.

Airline associations including European region of Airports Council International (ACI), Airlines for Europe (A4E), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the delay and said further preparations are needed.

“The EES will be a game changer for how the EU’s borders are managed. There are, however, a number of issues which must be resolved to ensure a smooth roll out and operation of the new system so that air passengers do not face disruptions,” a joint statement says.

Things to be resolved include a “wider adoption and effective implementation of automation at national border crossing points by national authorities, funding by member states to ensure a sufficient number of trained staff and resources are deployed to manage the EU’s external border, particularly at airports,” and the “deployment of sufficient resources” to help airports and airlines with new procedures.

Airlines also said there needs to be a public communications campaign to inform non-EU citizens about the changes.

In addition, industry groups called on EU-LISA, the agency responsible for managing the system, to “strengthen communication” with airlines and with international partners such as the US “to ensure IT systems are connected and compatible.”

The decision to postpone the EES entry into operation until after the summer “will give airlines, airports and EU and national authorities the opportunity to resolve these issues and ensure the system is fully tested,” the statement continues.

The EU-LISA is currently preparing a revised timeline for the launch, which will be presented for approval at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the meeting of responsible EU ministers, in March 2023.

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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