Photo: Scanpix.

SAS accused of weakening the Swedish Model

After striking a deal with unions which involves tougher working conditions for employees, Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, has been accused of disregarding Swedish labour market practices.

Social Democrat Economic Policy Spokesperson, Jennie Nilsson, described the deal as “worrying”. She told Swedish Radio news that it could set a precedent for negotiations where employees are faced with ultimatums.

However, Financial Markets Minister, Peter Norman, countered that those who say that more time could have been made available for negotiations do not understand the airline industry.

“The airlines’ main source of income is ticket purchases and when you start negotiations like this, ticket sales nearly cease and so time is scarce,” said Norman.

Asked about the criticism that SAS has contradicted the Swedish Model, Norman said “I understand if people feel there was not enough time. Perhaps that is because there is a lack of understanding of how an airline functions and is financed.”

Swedish trade unions have this week discussed the SAS-negotiations as deviating from the Swedish norm and as something of a watershed moment. Some are asking whether it will affect the entire Nordic labour market model.

Nilsson thinks it is a good thing a deal has finally been reached but she is also worried.

“There are reasons to be concerned, she said, “but there are also bigger issues at stake here. Politicians should not meddle in negotiations but should ensure that conditions are equal for all parties on the labour market. We have been very critical of a number of worsening conditions that have come about, especially for the unions.”

Unions have also criticized the Swedish state, saying that, as the largest shareholder in SAS, it should have shown better leadership and allowed more time for negotiations.

Eva Nordmark, president of the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees, told Swedish Radio news that “ultimatums have been made and the unions have, under strict time pressure, been expected to agree to the plan. Such behavior is not in accordance with Swedish tradition.”

Norman says the situation with SAS has been unique.

“These are very special conditions, I think, but this is the process on the Swedish labour market where it is up to the parties involved to negotiate a deal. The alternative would have been bankruptcy.”

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