Scandinavian airline, SAS, and its pilots have agreed for the third time this week to extend their negotiation talks until Monday 4th July.
This was announced by company executive, Marianne Hernæs. Prior to this announcement mediation in Norway was intended to continue for another three days until midnight on Friday 1st, but was later extended until 11am on Saturday 2nd. Now we have received confirmation that talks will be extended for a third time, with a new settlement deadline given – noon on Monday 4th.
Third time’s a charm?
Many travellers are in a state of confusion as to how the negotiations are going. On one hand, the fact that negotiations are being extended for the third time could imply that both sides are trying hard to avoid strikes, as some labour experts have suggested. SAS’ lead negotiator Marianne Hernæs stated “We need to sleep, none of us have slept for a really long time.”
During the pandemic, roughly 560 pilots lost their jobs. In aims to recover from the pandemic SAS did not re-employ these pilots, instead, they have hired staffing in violation of the Employment Protection Act. As a result, these new operation units have been hiring non-Scandinavian pilots in new subsidiaries SAS Link and SAS Connect, that are willing to work for less pay and fewer benefits than normal. This issue is not limited to SAS, there are currently airport strikes across Europe concerning wages and working conditions.
Scandinavian principles over employment
The airline’s decision to hire without adhering to existing employment protection conventions has sparked opposition amongst employees. Some employees deem Scandinavian principles to be more important than keeping their own jobs. Roger Klokset, leader of SAS’ pilots in Norway spoke on Tuesday afternoon saying “we won’t sacrifice the Scandinavian model to save a company”, with full knowledge that striking can force the airline into bankruptcy and jeopardise jobs. Put simply, SAS pilots will stand ground for adequate working conditions, even if their own jobs are at risk.
What the outcome can mean for SAS and travellers this summer
If talks do not reach a compromise, it is expected that almost 1000 pilots in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway will go on strike. The damage that this can do is immense. SAS estimates that this could leave some 30,000 passengers stranded daily. From Norway specifically, it is predicted at least 76% of all SAS flights will be cancelled and at least as many return flights. Some analysts envisage that it will cost SAS up to NOK 100 million each day of the strike.
The consequences of a potential strike is not only causing disarray within the airline but also amongst affected travellers. Alaura Sjögren, a Chicago resident with plans to travel back home to Sweden told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “I have a lot of anxiety, find it difficult to eat and sleep and it feels like the airline is just abandoning us – they are not giving any answers.”
Whether or not the talks between SAS and their pilots reach a negotiation by noon on Monday will determine if a strike is imminent. It could be a make or break for SAS with looming possibilities of bankruptcy and lost jobs for employees. Unfortunately for travellers, chaos seems near should the strikes commence.