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Norwegian Air pilots win better pay and terms in times of labour strife

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FILE PHOTO: A Norwegian Air plane is refuelled at Oslo Gardermoen airport, Norway
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By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian Air pilots won a 3.7% pay rise and improved working conditions after wage talks with the budget carrier's management, the head of the union representing Norwegian Air pilots in Scandinavia told Reuters.

The resolution at Norwegian Air stands out as rifts between management and unions elsewhere in Europe drive expectations of travel headaches during the busy summer holiday season.

In a hint of what other airlines may have to grant employees to avoid, or resolve, labour conflicts, the pilot union at Norwegian Air won full employment status for several pilots who had been employed on a temporary basis.

The pilots also won the right for more notice of when they could take a summer holiday. Now they will know the preceding December compared with March-April previously, the union leader said.

"It is about quality of life. Everyone wants to enjoy their work and be able to go the extra mile that is needed," Alf Hansen, head of the Norwegian Pilot Union, told Reuters.

Norwegian Air said the wage deal would give the company flexibility, predictability and help it to run operations in a cost-effective way. It declined further comment on Friday.

Pilots at rival airline SAS have warned of a potential strike in late June over disagreements on wages and ways to cut costs at the struggling Nordic airline, which SAS management says are essential to preventing a collapse.

Hansen said Norwegian Air pilots had faced a similar conflict a decade ago.

"This is a battle we had in 2013 in Norwegian when the then management tried to export Norwegian Air work places to other (cheaper) parts of Europe and thought it would be economical. It is not. With SAS, I thought this battle was over.

"SAS pilots in Norway were furloughed for one-and-a-half years and then they are made unemployed and then SAS creates a competing company within the same company. It is disgraceful," he said.

"This is not something that we should have in Norwegian work life."

SAS was not immediately available to comment's on Hansen's remarks.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Terje Solsvik and Barbara Lewis)

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