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SAS and pilot unions to resume deadlocked talks Wednesday

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flights

By Victoria Klesty and Essi Lehto

STOCKHOLM/OSLO (Reuters) - Embattled Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing pilots will resume negotiations on Wednesday to try and agree a new labour deal to end a one-week strike.

SAS has cancelled more than 1,200 flights since July 4 when talks with many of its pilots over a new collective bargaining agreement collapsed and they launched the crippling strike. "What has now happened is that we have asked the parties to gather in Stockholm from Wednesday," Swedish mediator Jan Sjolin said.

Henrik Thyregod, head of the Danish pilots union told Reuters he was certain an outcome would be reached but was unsure of how long the negotiations would take.

"I expect to discuss ... a collective bargaining agreement so we can get the pilots back in the cockpit and the passengers back in the air," he said.

Spokespeople for SAS and the Norwegian and Swedish pilot unions also confirmed the talks will resume but declined to elaborate on the content or expected outcome.

The airline said on Monday it had informed mediators that it wishes to resume negotiations with the aim of "reaching a new collective agreement".

"SAS understands that continued mediation requires concessions from both parties and SAS is willing to take its responsibility in that process," it said in a statement.

BIG BUMPS The loss-making carrier has estimated the strike, now in its ninth day, is costing $10 million to $13 million a day.

"There are some big bumps. But there are also a lot of things that have been agreed upon. If they can use that as a stepping stone to get the last things in order, then it doesn't have to take long before there is an agreement," Sydbank's chief analyst Jacob Pedersen told Reuters.

The striking unions have been angered by SAS' decision to hire new pilots through two relatively new subsidiaries instead of first rehiring former employees dismissed during the pandemic, when almost half of its pilots were let go.

Pedersen, when asked about the biggest point of contention, pointed to the rehiring and said pilots want to ensure that SAS does not just create new subsidiaries after entering into an agreement.

Having struggled for years, the airline on July 5 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, a move it said was brought forward by the strike. Flight tracking website FlightAware showed that 190 SAS flights, or 61% of those scheduled, were cancelled on Tuesday.

Shares in SAS, whose biggest owners are Sweden and Denmark, were up 7.6% at 0925 GMT. Year-to-date, they have still lost more than half of their value.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty in Oslo, Helena Soderpalm and Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Writing by Anna Ringstrom and Stine Jacobsen; editing by Jason Neely and Kirsten Donovan)

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