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SAS says pilots to strike after negotiations fail

By AFP - Jul 04,2022 - Last updated at Jul 04,2022

People crowd on Monday in the departure hall at Oslo Airport Gardermoen after it became clear that 900 pilots of Scandinavian airline SAS would be taken out on strike (AFP photo)

STOCKHOLM — Scandinavian airline SAS said on Monday that negotiations between the carrier and the pilots' union had failed to reach an agreement, prompting some 900 pilots to strike.

"How on earth is a strike in the busiest week of the last two-and-a-half years going to help us find and attract investors," SAS chief executive, Anko van der Werff, told reporters, criticising what he called a "strike culture" among pilots.

The pilots are protesting against salary cuts demanded by management as part of a restructuring plan aimed at ensuring the survival of the company, which has suffered a string of losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. 

"We deeply regret that our customers are affected by this strike, leading to delays and cancelled flights," van der Werff said in a statement.

The airline said that the strike "is estimated to lead to the cancellation of approximately 50 per cent of all scheduled SAS flights," impacting around 30,000 passengers a day.

SAS management announced in February the savings plan, dubbed "SAS Forward", which was supplemented in June by a plan to increase capital by nearly one billion euros ($1.04 billion). 

Denmark and Sweden are the biggest shareholders with 21.8 per cent each. 

Denmark said in June it was ready to increase its stake to 30 per cent. Sweden has refused to provide fresh funds, but is willing to turn debt into capital. 

Norway, which left SAS in 2018, has said it is ready to return to the airline, but only by converting debt into equity. 

The strike at SAS comes as the summer is shaping up to be difficult for European airlines and airports, faced with staff shortages affecting traffic. 

After widespread job losses linked to COVID-19, airlines and airports are struggling to recruit new staff in many countries. 

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