Norwegian SAS employees refuse to work extra overtime

From 14 July 1999, Norwegian ground staff at the SAS airline have refused to work extra overtime in protest against the airline's plans to increase company earnings by means of outsourcing approximately 7,000 jobs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Industrial action may be extended to cover all SAS ground staff in Norway

Norwegian ground staff employed by Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) have resorted to industrial action against the airline's plans to improve company earnings by means of outsourcing approximately 7,000 employees in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Since 14 July 1999, members of the "SAS Personnel Club" (SAS Personalklubb) have refused to work extra overtime, which is a legal option under the Norwegian Working Environment Act.

SAS is a consortium of three national companies - SAS Danmark A/S (Denmark), SAS Norge ASA (Norway) and SAS Sverige AB (Sweden) - and all three companies are partly owned by private interests and partly by the respective governments of the three Scandinavian countries. SAS is presently considering a wide range of cost-saving measures in an attempt to improve company earnings by SEK 3.5 billion over a period of two years. One of the measures proposed is to outsource approximately 7,000 employees, out of its total workforce of 27,000. To accomplish this, SAS is considering transferring its ground operations to a different company, to be established in cooperation with the German company GlobeGround.

SAS argues that outsourcing may be a necessary measure to improve its financial situation, and that the joint-venture proposal will in fact strengthen the job security of the ground personnel concerned. The trade unions representing Norwegian ground personnel believe that the initiative may have serious consequences for approximately 2,000 employees in Norway. The leader of the SAS Personnel Club, Asbjoern Wikestad, states that SAS employees are opposed to any measures that are likely to result in a loss of jobs, and that industrial action will continue until SAS decides to stop the process of drawing up its plan. In a meeting between representatives of Norwegian ground employees and SAS management on 23 July 1999, SAS continued to stress its intention to consider income enhancement through outsourcing parts of its operations. As a result, the employee side warned that industrial action may soon be extended to cover all SAS ground personnel in Norway (quoted in Dagens Næringsliv on 24 July 1999).

The industrial action has so far had no serious effects on air travel, but it is expected to cause problems when the summer holidays are over. Danish ground personnel took strike action for the same reasons on 7 July 1999.

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