Pilots at Scandinavian airline SAS ended their two-week-long strike today after a deal with bosses was finally reached. Worker action has hit the carrier hard, affecting over 380,000 passengers and forcing the airline into bankruptcy earlier this month. The new agreement could secure a future for both the pilot and the company.
15 Days of Strikes
SAS says the 15-day strike cost more than $145 million to date and affected 3,700 flights during their busiest season. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on the second day of the strike, beginning a process of financial restructuring that could take up to a year.
SAS has been in financial trouble since before the pandemic. Earlier this month, negotiations with pilots over wage cuts fell apart, prompting the pilot walk-out. Unions and bosses agreed to return to the table on Wednesday to determine whether the strikes would continue.
Chief Executive Anko van der Werff was relieved to begin a regular flight schedule again: “Finally, we can resume normal operations and fly our customers on their much longed-for summer holidays,” he said in a statement, adding, “I deeply regret that so many of our passengers have been impacted by this strike.” Around 380,000 passengers were affected by the disruptions.
As part of the new agreement, SAS says it will rehire pilots it made redundant during the pandemic, fulfilling one of the core demands of the strikers. The airline had undercut laid-off pilots by hiring new entrants on contracts with less attractive terms. The move was part of what incited unions to call for industrial action.
“450 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic have been guaranteed re-employment, and the pilot associations’ collective bargaining agreements will also apply to the new companies SAS Connect and SAS Link,” Swedish Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement.
It is not yet clear what the airline will do about the pilots already hired by their subsidiaries on inferior contracts.
The airline says the new five-and-a-half-year deal with unions will help it to achieve the $700 million annual cost savings needed for its business transformation plan, which includes shedding some of its leased planes. The months ahead will involve substantial changes for SAS as they seek to restructure their debts and emerge with a “significant capital injection” to help secure their future.