Employees resisting SAS “ultimatum”

Pilots and cabin attendants say they are unhappy that the airline is forcing them to accept the conditions of SAS’s savings plan

November 13th, 2012 1:36 pm| by admin

A day after SAS unveiled a 2.8 billion kroner annual savings plan aimed at keeping the airline aloft, employees are showing signs they are unlikely to let the management force them to accept pay cuts and longer working hours.

Danish employees showed their dissatisfaction with the plan today in Copenhagen, where members of the 1,400 member strong Cabin Attendants Union (CAU) refused to take part in a meeting with SAS managing director Rickard Gustafsson to discuss the main points of the plan directly with employees.

CAU members said they were upset that SAS had called on employees through the media to accept the plan, instead of appealing to them in person. 

Union representatives told the press that they were willing to negotiate with SAS, but that they felt the airline was wrong to target employee wages as the primary reason for its financial woes.

Instead, Jens Møller, a CAU spokesperson, pointed to the company’s costs elsewhere as the primary problem, and warned that the cuts would decrease customer service. 

“Passengers want quality and a high level of service,” Møller told the Ritzau news bureau. “We fight to give customers what they want. Our salary isn’t the source of the problem.”

Resistance to the cuts began almost immediately on Monday, when SAS employees in Norway said they had no intention of agreeing to the offer.

Later in the day, Danish pilots criticised SAS management for asking them accept cuts after pilots in Denmark, Sweden and Norway had offered earlier this month to voluntarily cut their salaries and work longer hours. According to Lars Bjørking, the head of the pilots’ union Dansk Pilotforening, SAS had been hoping for deeper cuts and rejected the offer.

Although Danish pilots did not reject the cuts outright, Bjørking said they were dissatisfied with the airline’s take-it-or-leave-it offer.

“We can’t give them an answer either way,” he told DR News. “We have to work together to move forward. That is the only way. We can’t give ultimatums to each other.”

Bjørking added that SAS pilots were ready to re-open negotiations. CAU representatives said they too were also interested in speaking to management, but refused to have management dictate the terms to them.

“If SAS wants this to work, the management and Rickard Gustafsson need to change their course,” Pierre Schomburg, a CAU representative, told the press.

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