SAS, Unions Close to Deal to End Pilot Strike: Reports

May 3, 2019 Updated: May 3, 2019

OSLO—Scandinavian airline SAS and unions are close to reaching a deal to end a pilot strike that has grounded 380,000 passengers over the past week, Norwegian media reported on May 2.

The airline, the Norwegian and Danish pilot unions, and the Norwegian employer organization were not immediately available for comment. The Danish and Swedish employer organizations and the Swedish union declined to comment.

Since pilots went on strike on April 26 over wages and conditions, SAS has canceled more than 4,000 flights.

Parties involved in the dispute have been negotiating in Oslo since May 1 to try to resolve it.

“The will is there to solve the situation,” Norwegian Pilots’ Union President Yngve Carlsen told reporters earlier in the day on his way into the Norwegian state mediator’s office, where the parties talked overnight.

“I am more optimistic now than I was yesterday,” Carlsen added but declined to offer a timeline as to when the strike could end.

Close to bankruptcy in 2012, SAS sold assets and cut wages and thousands of jobs in return for a life-saving credit facility. It has been profitable in the last four years but fuel costs are rising and overcapacity is still squeezing the sector.

The Swedish union has said pilots were seeking around a 13 percent pay hike, to make up for the 2012 wage cuts.

SAS, which is part-owned by the Swedish and Danish governments, has said that would entail significant cost increases that would seriously damage competitiveness.

The aviation industry’s employer body in Sweden says pilots already have high wages, averaging 93,000 crowns last year. The Swedish pilots union disputes the figure, saying salaries start at 34,000 crowns, rising over 25 years to 98,000.

Analysts estimate the stand-off over wages and other demands by pilots in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark could cost SAS as much as $10.5 million a day, threatening to wipe out the airline’s annual profit in short order.

By Gwladys Fouche

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