Crisis-hit airline seeks a saving deal with employees

SAS's demand to lower salaries infuriates unions

Published torsdag 15 november 2012 kl 11:49
Updated, torsdag 15 november 2012 kl 18:09
SAS vill sänka löner och höja pensionsåldern. Foto: Ned Alley/Scanpix.
SAS wants to lower salaries and raise the retirment age. Photo: Ned Alley/Scanpix.

Unions are railing against the way Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, is negotiating, with one union saying the offer on the table would give certain cabin personnel SEK 80 an hour.

The eight unions representing SAS's aircraft staff began negotiations Thursday on the carrier's savings plan, which was presented on Monday. According to the company the savings plan must be accepted in its entirety.

With three days left to the deadline, the unions say the demands SAS has set go against the Swedish model for collective bargaining in the labour market. The unions want to know if the government has given the green light for the negotiations.

"If SAS manages to push this through then other companies can try to do the same thing, which can lead to worsening conditions for all workers," one flight attendant told news agency TT.

But Peter Norman, Sweden's Financial Markets Minister, told the Swedish Airline Pilots Association that the changes and the savings plan from SAS had to be accepted in their entirety. Otherwise, he said, the governments of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark would not give the banks the loan guarantees they have asked for.

Norman said both side needed to agree to make SAS competitive.

But the trade union Unionen says the plan will lower hourly workers salaries to SEK 80 an hour, making them some of the worst paid workers in the country.

SAS, however, says the union is mistaken. "It's so far from the reality that it really must be a misunderstanding," said Johan Dyrendahl, head of information at SAS.

Dyrendahl said he could not say exactly what cabin workers' salaries would be, but said no one's salaries would drop more than 15 percent.

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO has criticized the actions of SAS and the government. "A negotiation is two partners who sit down," said Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, the head of LO. "To do what SAS has done, to under threat of bankruptcy go out and demand worse conditions for workers, and have them backed up by a minister, is a complete break in a trend for the Swedish labour market."

But according to Jennie Nilsson, the Social Democratic business spokesperson, there is nothing in the Swedish model that prohibits companies to ask their workers to accept lower salaries.

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