In crisis talks, SAS makes deals with unions

Danish cabin crew union is the last party to agree

In talks that have stretched through recent days, over the weekend and throughout the night, SAS finally reached agreements with seven of eight unions on wage cuts and pensions. The original deadline for talks to end – before midnight Sunday night – was postponed to today. Agreements have been made with the Swedish and Norwegian cabin crews and the pilot unions in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, according to SAS spokeswoman Elisabeth Manzi, leaving the Danish cabin crew union the last party to agree.
SAS must reach a deal with the labour groups if it is to survive. The airline wants to cut some salaries by up to 17% and reduce the number of employees from 15,000 to about 9,000.
Robert Gustafsson, president of the Swedish pilots association, says that the agreement is hard on pilots, who will lose one month’s salary a year, have more pay cuts and experience longer working hours. “We’ve made a big sacrifice,” he said. “In principle, we’ve met with SAS in all areas – salary, pension and employment,” he told the news agency TT.
Other SAS employees will make similar sacrifices. Swedish cabin crews will work longer hours but will not have any pay cuts – although they will get no salary negotiations for the next two years.
Analysts question whether even these tough measures will secure the long-term independence of the airline. But SAS management argues it has a solid base for the future if the cost cuts, which also involve asset disposal, are carried out.
In a sign of the seriousness of the talks with unions, SAS management had instructed pilots to ensure their planes were fully fuelled in order to return home in case bankruptcy was declared. The airline also gave cash to crews so they could stay at hotels in case of bankruptcy.
Scandinavia’s governments and six banks have agreed to lend SAS around €400 million if the deals with the unions were successfully reached.
Reuters / TT / The Local
[pictured: SAS Airbus A340; courtesy SAS]

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