The pilots in SAS are on a strike to fight for a decent working life and secure jobs.
As the SAS management presented their ‘SAS Forward’ plan and required all work groups to contribute to save the airline for bankruptcy, the pilots were very positive to help. Pilots with decades of their career invested in SAS hardly want to see their workplace fall to pieces. Hence, as the negotiations started for new agreements, the pilots offered a total pay cut of 25 %, including actual salary reductions, flexible seasonal work and increased workdays.
After the Pandemic hit, almost 600 pilots were fired from SAS. They left with a written agreement in their hand that they would be reemployed once the passengers were back, and they even got to keep their uniform hanging in their closet at home. Their promises of return were however shattered as SAS decided to establish their new subsidiaries: SAS Connect and SAS Link. The management now defines the need for pilots to be only in these two companies, despite the route network, passengers and planes being apparently the same. The written agreement of return for the fired pilots only applies to the “old” SAS, and they now need to apply for their old jobs before receiving a refusal. Hiring new pilots is cheaper than reemploying faithful, skilled pilots with years of experience on the Scandinavian route network.
While the pilots have accepted substantial cost cuts, SAS refuses to alter its course with ‘creative’ employment models and avoidance of agreements. For the pilots the strike is therefore substantial, with fundamental working life principles at stake. They accuse SAS management of union busting as they are splitting up the pilot group, and they are afraid of being outsourced and replaced by new, cheaper work force.
Following the strike, the SAS pilots face massive support from colleagues, politicians, commentators, and the public in general. The most recent poll from the Norwegian broadcaster NRK concludes that 58 % of the population supports the pilots in the strike.
The strike is a culmination of disruptive leadership in SAS, where the management seems to have a lack of understanding for cooperation between unions, management and labor laws. CEO Anko van der Werff even turned to the media and called his unions “schizophrenic” as they had different agreements with different airlines. The public communication of SAS has reached a historical low, but hopefully direct communication between the unions and SAS management can lead to an agreement for a sustainable SAS who sees their employees as resources rather than an expense.
The fight of the SAS pilots is a fight for all members of the pilot community – in Europe and beyond – and we all stand behind you.