Turbulent times in air transport: Recent collective disputes and the ‘race to the bottom’

9 Dezember 2015


Air transport has been in the news in recent months as strikes and difficulties in social dialogue across the European Union have strained relations between the sector’s unions and companies. Disputes in the different countries have revolved around pay and working conditions, resRead more

Air transport has been in the news in recent months as strikes and difficulties in social dialogue across the European Union have strained relations between the sector’s unions and companies. Disputes in the different countries have revolved around pay and working conditions, restructuring and planned redundancies, collective agreement ‘cherry-picking’ and foot-dragging over entering into agreements.

The European air transport industry is going through turbulent times. A series of recent collective disputes has put the spotlight on aspects of working conditions and the terms and conditions of the employment relationship, particularly social protection.

Based on reporting from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents, this article summarises recent collective disputes in the air transport sector. All airline operators are having to contend with severe pressure from competitors and this has affected employment relations throughout the industry.

Employment and working life context

In 2014, the air transport sector employed around 440,000 workers across Europe, according to Eurostat Labour Force Survey (LFS) data – NACE Rev. 2 Code 51: Air transport.

The move towards a single market has resulted in the gradual liberalisation of the industry, but has also led to a continuous fall in employment. Data from Eurofound’s Restructuring Monitor (ERM) show that, with the exception of 2007, announced job reductions significantly outnumbered announced jobs created between 2003 and 2015 (see figure). According to the ERM, extensive restructuring announcements have been frequent since 2008, abating a little in the second half of 2015, up to September 2015.

Announced restructuring and employment in the air transport sector (NACE 51)

Sources: Eurofound, European Restructuring Monitor, Events database (2003 to September 2015); Eurostat, Labour Force Survey, [lfsa_egan22d] and [lfsq_egan22d]: 2015: Q1 and Q2

The issues under debate in the sector are complex and numerous. Recently the social partners in the European civil aviation sector – the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the European Cockpit Association (ECA) and the Association of European Airlines (AEA) – and the European Commission commissioned an extensive study on atypical employment in aviation (6.70 MB PDF). This was partly based on a survey of more than 6,600 pilots.

The survey found that atypical employment (defined in the context of this study as ‘all other forms other than the standard open-ended contract’) was largely connected with low-cost airlines. It showed that the labour market for pilots was highly age-segregated (younger pilots are much more likely to fly for low-cost carriers) yet very dynamic, with considerable movement by pilots in search of better terms and conditions of employment. Around half of the survey’s respondents had changed their employer at least once and, of these, 60% had changed employer more than seven times. The study underlined the risks created by these trends in terms of worker well-being, and client safety. It also drew attention to the lack of regulation in the sector to tackle these specific issues.

… civil aviation legislation does not take into account the prevalence of different forms of atypical employment and outsourcing in the rapidly changing civil aviation industry. Moreover, social legislation is not able to tackle the new phenomena, leaving room for elaborate subcontracting chains and elaborate social as well as fiscal engineering. As a result, the competition nowadays is a true race to the bottom, which affects fair competition and workers' rights as well as raises important issues in the field of safety and liability.
(Jorens et al, 2015)

A recent ruling by the German legal sickness insurance funds on 3 November 2015 illustrates this point. The ruling stated that pilots assigned to Ryanair via a third company and defined by the company as self-employed should in fact be considered salaried employees (in German). Their employment status was effectively considered to be ‘bogus self-employment’.

EU-level policy

Air safety is a major concern and a field of intervention for the European Union (EU), with major implications for working conditions in the sector.

Following an extensive stakeholder consultation, the European Commission plans to adopt two measures by the end of 2015: an ‘aviation package for improving the competitiveness of the EU aviation sector’; and a ‘social package’. As part of this initiative, the European Parliament issued a resolution on 11 November 2015 which emphasised that ‘to boost the EU’s air transport economy, the EU needs to ensure a level playing field, while upholding high safety and social standards’.

On 20 October 2015, the European Commission released an action plan for safer aviation prepared by a task force led by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) following the tragedy of Germanwings Flight 9525 which crashed in France in March 2015. Among other things, the task force recommended that:

  • pilots should undergo psychological checks before beginning employment;
  • random drug and alcohol testing for flight crew should be introduced;
  • a European aeromedical repository should be set up.

In addition, representatives of airlines (staff and employers) signed a European Corporate Just Culture Declaration on 1 October 2015 in the presence of the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, to ‘promote a just culture and boost aviation safety’.

Recent collective disputes in air transport

Despite the slowdown reported by the ERM in both new jobs and job reductions in 2015, reports from EurWORK correspondents suggest that social dialogue and industrial relations were still turbulent, resulting mainly in collective disputes. These disputes have also been extensively reported in the media.

Disputes over wages and working conditions

As well as ‘traditional’ wage-related disputes, such as those in the Czech Republic and Norway, other aspects of working conditions sparked conflict. These included work intensity and related working time demands at SAS in Sweden, working time flexibility at SAS in Norway, and flight safety at Cargolux in Luxembourg (see Annex for details).

A number of the other reported conflicts have similarities with the most recent Lufthansa case, in which new collective agreement provisions on early retirement were the main point of contention. Lufthansa’s pilots took strike action at the beginning of September, but regional courts could not agree about the legality of the strike. On 9 September, the court in Hessen ruled the strike unlawful, arguing that the pilot’s union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) was not disputing the collective agreement but was attempting ‘to circumvent the restructuring plans of the company’. VC went to the constitutional court to challenge this ruling (in German); at the time of writing, the court’s decision was still pending. Meanwhile, the regional labour court at Darmstadt ruled that a five-day strike by members of the cabin crew union, the Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO), was legal, while the Dusseldorf labour court ruled against it (in German). On 25 November, UFO called off the planned strikes (in German) because a breakthrough had been made in the negotiations.

There were disputes in Romania over the social protection of employees. Air traffic controllers contested, among other things, the possibility of being moved to other positions after the age of 55. The issue of how pensions would be dealt with after the transition to a different employment status are still to be resolved. This issue also concerns firefighters employed at a Norwegian airport and Swedish SAS cabin crew. The latter recently sued their union (Unionen), claiming it had overstepped its authority by agreeing to significant pension cuts for its members which would deprive many cabin crew of a substantial portion of their earned pensions.

Disputes over restructuring and redundancies

The longest strike in Air France’s history took place in in autumn 2014 when pilots went on strike for 14 days at an estimated cost to the company of €500 million, with more turbulence to follow. On 30 April 2015, the company informed the central works council of its plans to cut 800 jobs by 2017. At the beginning of October, a further cut of 2,900 jobs was announced following the failure of negotiations with the pilots over increasing their working time. Air France management had asked the pilots to increase their productivity by about 17%. The National Union of Airline Pilots (SNPL) counter-proposals would, according to management, result in an increase of only 2%–4%. This deadlock resulted in industrial action, during which angry workers were alleged to have resorted to violence. Negotiations to cut job losses are pending with unions but the management insists that a reduction of 1,000 positions by 2016 cannot be avoided. Negotiations are continuing over the remaining 1,900 positions. SNPL has claimed that Air France’s financial difficulties are linked to the traffic rights offered by the French government to airlines from the Persian Gulf, increasing pressure from competitors.

In Portugal, the continuing privatisation process at national carrier TAP Portugal has sparked collective action. The National Union of Civil Aviation Personnel (SNPVAC), which represents around 90% of TAP’s 2,500 cabin crew, left the General Workers’ Union (UGT) in March, after other unions negotiated an agreement with the government and called off industrial action in December 2014. TAP pilots, who want a share in the forthcoming privatisation, led a 10-day strike (1–10 May 2015), but public opinion and the other TAP trade unions opposed this strike. The pilots say the government reneged on a deal agreed in 1999 that they would receive a stake should the airline be privatised. The government estimated that the stoppage affected 300,000 passengers and cost €70 million.

There are also turbulent times at the Slovenian national airline, Adria Airways (AA), which is threatened with bankruptcy and is in the process of being privatised. Within this difficult economic context, management cancelled an existing collective agreement in December 2014. In May 2015 during collective bargaining talks, cabin staff planned a strike for 1 June but called it off after reaching a provisional deal with management. However, the situation for pilots remains uncertain. On 10 November 2015, AA pilots who are members of the Slovenian Trade Union of Traffic Pilots (SPPS) announced a strike for 30 November after reaching an impasse in collective bargaining talks. In response, management warned of liquidity difficulties and the ever present danger of bankruptcy unless the company was sold or recapitalised. The union claims it does not want to damage the privatisation process, but is keen to reach a new collective agreement before the arrival of a new owner.

Disputes over ‘cherry-picking’ of collective agreements and reluctance to negotiate

In Finland, a dispute between two unions, the Finnish Cabin Crew Union (SLSY) and the Finnish Aviation Union (IAU), and the Union of Service Sector Employers (PALTA) dragged on throughout the spring and up to the end of May 2015. This dispute included several threatened strikes and one executed strike over ground services at all major Finnish airports. The dispute was about which collective agreements applied to ground handling and cabin crew staff at Airpro, a subsidiary of the former civil aviation authority Finavia, which is now run as a publicly owned company. There was a valid company-level collective agreement and two further existing sector-level agreements which in theory covered ground handling and cabin crew services. Airpro’s customers in ground handling and cabin crew services are mainly low-cost airlines, and IAU and SLSY have accused Finavia of ‘collective agreement shopping’. They claim the company is supporting low-cost airlines at the expense of workers by ‘cherry-picking’ the cheapest applicable agreement. The company-level agreement offers lower wages and does not take the special features of cabin crew services into account. With help from the national conciliator, the dispute was finally settled in May. The details of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the applicability of the company-level collective agreement remains as it was before the dispute.

Another case worth highlighting in this context is one involving Ryanair in Denmark. The Federation of Employees in the Service Trade (Serviceforbundet), representing cabin crew, tried to enter into collective bargaining with the company but it refused to do so. In turn, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) brought the case to the Danish Labour Court. The court subsequently ruled in favour of the unions, ruling that Ryanair had to recognise the legal right of Serviceforbundet to issue notice of industrial action in support of specific demands on collective bargaining negotiations to establish the working conditions of cabin crew at Ryanair bases in Denmark. This verdict made it possible for other unions affiliated to LO, whose members deliver services such as fuel, catering and baggage handling to Ryanair, to call sympathy strikes. Such strikes would have prevented Ryanair from flying out of Copenhagen. The verdict attracted great interest because it confirmed that Danish cabin crew, working from a Ryanair base on Danish territory, are covered by Danish labour law. Ryanair had claimed that it was a company registered in Ireland and the working terms of all its employees, wherever they were based, were regulated by Irish civil law. The Union of Civil Servants (ST) announced a sympathy strike (in Swedish) when Ryanair announced plans to relocate to Sweden, but the strike was averted when Ryanair instead moved to Lithuania.


The recent conflicts have to be seen in the context of an industry under intense pressure from a number of interrelated factors. These include commercial competition and related restructurings; the threat of ‘easy’ relocation; the growing difficulty of regulating atypical employment and increasing bogus-self-employment in a fundamentally multinational industry; a highly age-segregated labour market; and an increasing gap between a highly organised workforce in some segments of the sector and non-organised workforces in others.

The Ryanair case demonstrates the effect that a single market with low entry and exit barriers can have on industrial relations. The threat of relocating an airline’s base, as has happened in this particular case, can eliminate a trade union’s bargaining power or even prevent the organisation of workers in the sector, particularly in the newly emerging parts of it.  

In the European Commission’s recent public consultation on improving the competitiveness of the EU aviation sector (362 KB PDF), cabin crew unions suggested that collective agreements could be negotiated across nations. Responding to this consultation, many airlines reiterated their support for upholding labour standards:

There is a need for a level playing field in terms of social standards. Wages, statutory labour and social standards are an important part of the business. To ensure this in the future, all companies and their employees stationed in the EU must be subject to the same rules and they must be enforced.

Assuming that a weakening of industrial relations can impact on labour standards, pay, the quality of working conditions and ultimately on flight safety, this challenges the national and European regulators, governments and social partners to avoid a ‘race-to-the bottom’ in which all parties would lose. It remains to be seen what role social dialogue can play in returning employment relations in the air transport industry back to flying form.


Eurofound (2005), Industrial relations in the airline industry, Dublin, 28 September.

Eurofound (2010), Representativeness of the European social partner organisations: Civil aviation, Dublin.

Jorens, Y., Gillis, D., Valcke, L. and De Coninck, J, Atypical employment in aviation, European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Civil Aviation and European Commission, 2015.

About this article

This article is based mainly on contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents in relation to the first three quarters of 2015. It also drew on cases reported in the European Restructuring Monitor.

Further resources on collective disputes can be obtained from EurWORK.

For further information, contact Christine Aumayr-Pintar, cau@eurofound.europa.eu

Annex: More information on collective disputes by country

Czech Republic: Wage cuts are focus of disputes at Czech Airlines

Czech Airlines (ČSA) continues to face long-term financial difficulties. The impact of this on collective bargaining has been significant. Unions report that the wages of ČSA pilots and flight attendants have fallen by 40% since the last collective agreement expired in February 2015. Trade unions have demanded higher wages but since autumn 2014, ČSA management and employees’ representatives have been unable to reach consensus on a new collective agreement. As a result, flight attendants from the Air Crew Trade Union Organisation (OOPL) issued a strike alert on 27 May 2015, joined by the Czech Airline Pilots Association ČSA (CZALPA) on 28 May 2015. Although employees’ representatives and ČSA management agreed that a mediator could lead the collective bargaining, the mediator’s suggestion of a new collective agreement was not accepted by the management.

The strike announced by OOPL and CZALPA was planned for 26–28 August 2015, but Prague City Court ruled it was unlawful. According to the court, OOPL’s procedure was not correct because its strike announcement did not give the reason and goal of the strike and did not give a list of employees willing to strike as well as other information. OOPL said it would appeal against the decision.

However, at the beginning of November 2015, the flight attendants’ union and ČSA management finally agreed on a new collective agreement, valid until the end of 2016. The reduction in flight attendants’ salaries made earlier this year will be compensated for by a partial rise, an increase of CZK 4,000 (approximately €148) per month on top of the basic  salary. The main change provided for by the new agreement is that flight attendants will be guaranteed at least 55 flight hours a month. It also provides for a more transparent system of dismissals.

Source: Soud zakázal stávku letušek, potvrdil argumenty ČSA

Soňa Veverková, RILSA

Denmark: Ryanair loses to Danish union and relocates to Lithuania

Legal proceedings in the case between Ryanair and the union confederation LO on behalf of the cabin crew union (Serviceforbundet) began in the Danish Labour Court on 15 June 2015. The Labour Court’s ruling on 1 July confirmed the right of the Danish unions to take industrial action against Ryanair for refusing to conclude a collective agreement. Ryanair instead gave up its bases in Copenhagen and Billund in the middle of July, and moved to Kaunas in Lithuania. Ryanair is still flying passengers in and out of Copenhagen. But because the company does not have a fixed base in Denmark, it is beyond the reach of the unions.

The case highlights the limits of a national labour market regulation model in the air transport sector, in light of the increasing numbers of low-cost airlines, the emergence of temporary work agencies that specialise in recruitment of young pilots to meet the demand for increasing hours in the air, and the cabin crew being on individual short-term contracts.

Carsten Jorgenson, FAOS

Finland: Social partners dispute applicability of collective agreements

The long dispute between two trade unions, SLSY and IAU, and the employers’ organisation PALTA centred around which collective agreement should apply to ground handling and cabin crew staff at Airpro, a subsidiary of the former civil aviation authority Finavia and now a publicly owned company. Airpro’s customers in ground handling and cabin crew services are mainly low-cost airlines, and IAU and SLSY have both accused Finavia of ‘collective agreement shopping’: choosing the ‘cheapest’ collective agreement to support low-cost airlines at the expense of workers.

Airpro has been covered since 1996 by a company-specific collective agreement negotiated between PALTA and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) and the Federation of Salaried Employees (Pardia). The agreement covers all the company’s activities, but IAU and SLSY argue that cabin crew and ground handling staff at Airpro should be covered by the two sector-level collective agreements that they have negotiated with PALTA. Both of these agreements are generally applicable as confirmed by the approvals committee operating within the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, meaning that an unorganised employer in the same line of business has to comply with them. During the course of the conflict, SLSY accused the employers of not respecting the principle of general applicability. PALTA countered that the principle is only applicable to unorganised employers, and it had a valid company-level agreement.

SLSY argued that Airpro’s company agreement does not take into account the special features of cabin crew services, and that their pay is significantly below the levels in the SLSY agreement. However, PALTA has said it considers the conflict to be a power struggle, with IAU and SLSY seeking to improve their bargaining position.  

Lisa Tönnes Lönnroos, Oxford Research

France: Dispute on restructuring within Air France

Negotiations with Air France pilots to increase their productivity by enhancing their working time (the so-called ‘plan A’) failed. At a central works council meeting on 5 October 2015, Air France management announced a restructuring plan involving fewer air links (‘plan B’) and the loss of 2,900 jobs. A demonstration of employees outside the building where the announcement was being made led to violence against security guards and two members of the management. Pictures and videos of the incident went viral on the internet.

On 13 November, the unions asked for the reinstatement of suspended and dismissed workers. The process of information and consultation to reduce the number of job cuts continues. At the central works council meeting on 19 November, the employees’ representatives voted for experts to evaluate the different scenarios (plans ‘A’ and ‘B’). Their report will be sent to the Air France’s board in January 2016.

Frederic Turlan, IR Share

Luxembourg: Protracted negotiations on collective agreement for Cargolux

Negotiations over a new company collective agreement at the Luxembourg aviation company Cargolux began in September 2014. The negotiating parties are the Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (OGB-L), the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB) and the employers. Although the imminent signature of a collective agreement was announced in July 2015, at the time of writing, a new round of negotiations was planned for November 2015. On 23 July, LCGB organised what the union called a ‘preventive action’ to draw attention to the issue of flight safety at Cargolux. A number of crews refused to take off in order to draw attention to their concerns about the company’s flight safety culture – a quarter of flights were delayed as a consequence of this industrial action. Cargolux spoke of an ‘illegal strike’ that interfered with the negotiation process of the collective agreement and announced it would take legal action against LCGB.

Frederic Turlan, IR Share

Norway: Mediation solution at Rygge Airport

In Norway, strike action was averted after a mediated agreement was reached between the employer, Rygge Airport and 25 fire and rescue workers who were members of the Norwegian Civil Service Union (NTL). These workers were bargaining over a new collective agreement after they were transferred from the Norwegian Airforce to the civil employer when the airport ceased to be used for military purposes. NTL subsequently stated that it was generally satisfied with the accord but was still unhappy about the lack of compensation for former state pension benefits. A bipartite committee will discuss the pension issue before the next collective bargaining rounds in spring 2016.

Dag Olberg, Fafo

Norway: Cockpit union goes on strike at SAS

Renegotiations between intermediaries seldom result in large-scale industrial conflicts in Norway. The collective agreements for pilots working for the aviation company SAS which were renegotiated in spring 2015 are an exception. The parties did not reach agreement and 17 pilots who were members of the Norwegian Cockpit Union (Norsk Cockpit Forening) went on a week-long strike, causing minor disturbances to airline traffic. The conflict had its origins in bargaining rounds in early January 2015, when SAS decided not to extend the pilots’ collective agreements. The main points of contention were working time and flexibility. Further bargaining rounds still failed to reach agreement and the subsequent mediation process also failed. The pilots’ strike began on 21 May 2015, involving initially six and later 17 pilots.

SAS had reached agreements with other pilot unions in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the strike did not last for many days. The Norwegian pilots union was the last to sign the agreement, which will be effective until 1 April 2016. In a press release issued after the strike had ended, SAS noted that it had now reached agreements with all pilot trade unions on new collective agreements, ensuring the conditions necessary for the company’s future expansion.

Dag Olberg, Fafo

Norway: Government to rule on how national and Schengen regulations apply to flight staff

In June 2015, the airline company Norwegian said it would consider court proceedings over the government’s interpretation of the regulations on foreign crew working on Norwegian aeroplanes during international flights. The government responded to the company’s inquiry in a letter dated 24 September 2015, in which it referred to Norwegian regulations regarding foreign citizens and the Schengen regulations.

The issue at stake is complex. Norwegian plans to move the registration of its long distance flights from Irish-based registration to registration in Norway. This revives questions about whether foreign flight crews working on aeroplanes that are registered in Norway will be covered by Norwegian regulations during their stay in Norwegian airports, including their arrival and departure.

The Norwegian authorities report that the government and the company disagree on interpretation of the regulations and how they apply to foreign employees working on Norwegian aeroplanes undertaking international flights. These regulations include those made under the Norwegian Immigration Act, which govern the rights of foreign citizens to stay and obtain a work permit in Norway, and the rights of flight personnel set out in the cross-border regulations in Appendix VII, Section 2.1 of the Schengen agreement. The government has said that several ministries are gathering information on how other Schengen countries reconcile the cross-border regulations with the rights of flight personnel. Once this information has been gathered, the government has promised to make swift contact with Norwegian.

Dag Olberg, Fafo

Romania: Strike at Romanian Air Traffic Authority

A two-hour strike by trade union members at the Romanian Air Traffic Authority (Romatsa) on 15 July affected over 60% of Romanian air traffic. Romatsa has 1,530 employees.

During July, the union negotiated with the Romatsa board and representatives of the Ministry of Transport. At the end of August, the Director-General of Romatsa resigned. The union leader announced there would be a general strike on 1 September unless requests for 14 amendments to the collective agreement had been dealt with to their satisfaction. These included retirement at the age of 55 and making it possible for air traffic controllers to switch to another position in, for instance, an operational or security department within Romatsa after the age of 55. The National Alliance of Budgetary Trade Unions ‘Sed Lex’ announced their support for the strike.

On 31 August, the union leader announced that agreement had been reached on all 14 requests, but the problem of 100 employees who were not able to occupy a position within the company remained to be solved. Later the same day, the Ministry for Social Dialogue announced that the collective agreement had been finalised.

Cristina Boboc, Simona Ghita, Raluca Dimitriu, European Institute of Romania

Slovenia: Collective bargaining related disputes at Adria Airways

At the beginning of 2015, three state-owned asset management institutions signed an agreement on the joint sale of a combined 91.58% stake in national flag carrier Adria Airways (AA). The fate of AA is currently in the hands of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), a public limited company entirely owned by the government. The owners need to decide about a capitalisation involving €8 million of taxpayers’ money before the end of November 2015. According to the national daily newspaper, Daily Delo, a further capitalisation or bankruptcy are both possible outcomes for AA.

This difficult economic context has affected industrial relations. In December 2014, management cancelled the existing collective agreement. Union representatives and the management held 13 meetings but the negotiations made no progress. SPPS has claimed that the AA management is deliberately delaying the negotiations. At the last meeting, the union representatives presented their demands but the management offer still fell far short of them. SPPS has also warned of numerous breaches of legislation and of the existing collective agreement, which is still valid.

Public opinion seems to be that the wages of AA pilots are quite generous and above the European average. According to SPPS President Fedor Pop Gligorov, the wages of AA pilots are less than the average wages of European pilots.

The average basic wage of an AA pilot is 1.6 times that of the average wage in Slovenia. AA has already cut wages several times. The last cut was in 2011 and only affected pilots. The system of overtime calculation for pilots was also changed then, switching from being based on one month’s working time to being averaged out over four month’s working time.  

Štefan Skledar, Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development

Sweden: New collective agreement averts strike at SAS

In early May, the Swedish Airline Pilots Association (SweALPA) issued an intent-to-strike notice (in Swedish). Negotiations about a new collective agreement with the part-government owned employer SAS had been called off. The disagreement revolved partly around SAS’s plans to outsource work to temporary employment agencies, and partly around the company’s demand for its pilots to work more during the summer months. According to a SweALPA representative, the pilots’ workload was already heavy and they only got three consecutive weeks of summer holiday. The union also pointed out that the sick leave rate for pilots was significantly higher than the national average (10% compared with 4%).

On the day the strike was due to begin, the partners finally settled on a new collective agreement (in Swedish). Both sides were satisfied with the solution. It met SAS’s demands for increased flexibility, while SweALPA reported that it had managed to save its members’ jobs and reduce the total workload on short flights – its priority when entering into negotiations.

SAS has now reached agreements with three of the four organisations that represent its pilots. This means a majority of SAS pilots are covered by new collective agreements. As described in the box below, this near-strike action was not the only reason SAS was in the industrial relations spotlight in Q 2 of 2015.

Mats Kullander, Anna Karin-Gustafsson, Oxford Research

Sweden: Cabin crew sue their own trade union

In early June it was announced that 190 SAS employees had taken legal action against their own trade union organisation, Unionen (in Swedish). When negotiating a crisis settlement in 2012, Unionen had agreed to significant cuts in pension schemes for its members and many cabin crew workers lost large portions of their earned pensions. Unionen is now being sued for overstepping its authority.

Mats Kullander, Anna Karin-Gustafsson, Oxford Research

Sweden: Sympathy strike averted in Ryanair case

At the beginning of July, notice of a sympathy strike against Ryanair (in Swedish) was given by ST, the Union of Service and Communication
Employees (SEKO), the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union (Transport) and Unionen. The strike was called because Ryanair had refused to sign a collective agreement with the Danish Flight Personnel Union (FPU). The strike was scheduled to begin on 18 July 2015 for members of ST, SEKO and Transport, and on 22 July 2015 for members of Unionen if Ryanair redirected its air traffic from Copenhagen Airport to Swedish airports. Ryanair instead moved its air base to Kaunas in Lithuania (in Swedish), averting any strikes in Sweden.

Mats Kullander, Anna Karin-Gustafsson, Oxford Research

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