Scandinavian planes grounded by international wildcat strikes

Wildcat strikes by pilots for Scandinavian airline SAS have forced the company to cancel a large number of flights from Copenhagen.

Submitted by Steven. on January 23, 2006

At 1pm on Monday, the airline had cancelled 80 departures from Kastrup airport in the Danish capital, with warnings that more cancellations will follow if the pilots don't return to work.

Many travellers to and from southern Sweden have been hit by the strike at Kastrup, which also serves nearby Malmö.

"The Danish Pilots Association is trying to talk the striking pilots into stopping their illegal action and returning to work," says SAS information manager Bertil Ternert.

According to him, four departures from Kastrup to Stockholm had been cancelled, and one flight to Gothenburg was also affected.

SAS announced shortly after 9 am on Monday that several pilots had stopped working and that flights were therefore being cancelled. Rumours had been circulating since earlier in the morning that the pilots were planning unofficial action. Union representative Mogens Holgaard said there was a bad atmosphere among pilots.

"It is close to boiling point," Said Holgaard.

SAS's Norwegian subsidiary SAS Braathens has also been forced to cancel a large number of flights due to "unusually high levels of sick leave" among pilots, the company said in a statement.

More than 50 flights have so far been cancelled at SAS Braathens , with the company warning that more cancellations could follow.

"It cannot be ruled out that the high levels of sick leave at SAS Braathens are linked to what's going in in Copenhagen," the company said.

The strikes follow negotiations between SAS and unions about pilot redundancies. Plans to split the company into smaller units have also caused concern for unions.

According to Bertil Ternert, the Danish Pilots Association is not behing the Kastrup conflict, which he says is in breach of agreements between the company and the union.

Negotiations over the structural changes at SAS are due to continue this week. The company wants Swedish and Danish pilots to be transferred to autonomous companies in their respective countries. But the union says that this breaks an agreement signed by SAS in 2004.

Scandinavian Airlines was was broken up in 2004 into SAS Denmark, SAS Norway and SAS Sweden. A separate company was created within the SAS group for intercontinental traffic.

The idea is that the national companies will stand on their own feet and compete on their own merits on their respective home markets. But according to the original restructuring, the pilots in Sweden and Denmark and the long-haul pilots remained employed by the SAS consortium, following an agreement with the pilots union.

Pilots in Sweden and Denmark are now worried that job security and their union agreements are threatened if they are transferred to the national companies.

Wildcat strikes also grounded flights in Italy over the weekend