Pilots walkout in strike at the Scandinavian Airlines

The pilots’ association had decided to strike over low wages and unpredictable work schedules if a deal was not arrived at by April 26

April 27, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Sweden pilots strike
The strike is joined by over 1,400 pilots from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, affecting more than 70,000 passenger traffic for the SAS (Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT)

More than 1,400 pilots went on a strike on April 26, after negotiations over wage increase and work schedules with the Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) did not yield any results. The Swedish, Norwegian and Danish unions of pilots had decided to go on strike earlier this month in case a deal was not arrived at.

Of the 1,409, the SAS Pilot Group union represents 372 pilots in Denmark, 545 in Norway and 492 in Sweden. The union has been negotiating with the SAS management for months on deteriorating work conditions, unpredictable work schedules and job insecurity. The demands include a 13% hike in wages and a more settled work schedule, which has been a key point of contention for the pilots.

According to a statement by the pilots’ association, “Many SAS pilots have no control over when and how long they have to work. In a worst-case scenario, they risk having to work seven weekends in a row”. Wilhelm Tersmeden, the union representative in Sweden, said, “Everyone who has a family life can imagine how difficult it is to not know when you have to work”.

A large section of air traffic in the three Scandinavian countries almost came to a standstill. 673 flights have been cancelled so far, affecting over 70,000 passengers, with estimates saying that the number of passengers affected can go up to 170,000 by April 27.

The airlines has been struggling in competition against booming budget airlines like Ryanair DAC and Norwegian Air Shuttle. It has adopted several cost-cutting measures, which include freezing wages to current levels. In February, the company reported a turnover of loss much higher than what it expected.

The director of communications for SAS, Karin Nyman, stated that the demands of the pilots are not reasonable and that if the demands were agreed upon “they would have very negative consequences for the company”. Tersmeden contradicted it, while speaking to TT News Agency, “They’re demonizing us and that makes the process more difficult… we want to know what our future looks like.”