Scandinavian Airlines may soon face yet another crushing strike among members of its cabin crew. Sources at the Norwegian financial daily newspaper “Finansavisen” have reported that an upcoming strike may take effect after Easter, if the current terms and working conditions for members of its cabin crew does not improve.
What is behind the potential strike?
The ongoing tension within the company stems from the fact that cabin crews are unhappy with the current work schedules. Crew claim that they typically only receive 15 days’ notice of their working patters before the next rota.
Owing to the unique ownership-model of SAS, its cabin crew belong to separate nationally organized unions. The current agreements of all three cabin crew unions within Sweden, Denmark and Norway will expire at roughly the same time this spring.
Martinus Rokkum, the head representative for the Norwegian SAS cabin crew, was quoted as saying to Norwegian paper Dagens Naeringsliv:
“The will to fight is strong.”
He added that he was hoping for an agreement with SAS management in due time to avoid any passenger disruptions.
History of strikes for the airline
If the strike among its cabin crew kicks off after Easter, it would not be the first incident to take place in recent memory. Last year’s profit was severely affected by a large scale strike among more than 1,400 of its pilots, causing over 4,000 canceled flights over six days. The action cost the airline approximately $67 USD million/450 million DKK.
The strike broke out due to stalled talks between the respective national pilot unions and SAS management. The parties were in negotiations over the weak long-term salary growth and unpredictable hours among many of its pilots.
When both parties finally reached an agreement, SAS pilots were to receive a 3.5% base pay increase for 2019, 3% in 2020 and a 4% increase in 2021. It was widely speculated at the time that cabin crews would take note and use these figures to support their cause later on.
Having been on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2012, SAS and its management board, with CEO Rickard Gustafson at the helm, dramatically trimmed cost levels to stay afloat. The rapid growth of low-cost rival Norwegian Air and a general downturn among European legacy carriers have since put SAS in a financial squeeze, with its high fixed costs and aging aircraft fleet.
Betting big on Airbus
This year will prove to be a hugely important one for SAS, which has invested heavily in the latest generation Airbus aircraft to replace its current fleet. Starting from January 28th, Ingegerd Viking, a brand new A350-900 based at CPH airport, will enter service. This will start forming the backbone of long-haul operations, with seven more A350s set to join the fleet.
Similarly, SAS is also waiting for the latest generation A321LR and more than 80 A320neo aircraft to step in for the current mixed fleet workhorses.
Considering the shaky financial underpinnings and large order with Airbus, another strike affecting passengers would represent a serious blow to the corporate image of SAS. It could undermine the changes implemented after its dramatic 2012 transformation.