SAS staff accept wage cuts

By late March 2004, agreements providing for wage cuts and in many cases longer hours had been reached for all groups of employees at the Danish operations of the SAS airline. The negotiations were held under the threat of redundancies as the troubled company seeks to cut costs.

Since 2001, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), the Scandinavian-based air carrier, has implemented a series of cost-cutting and restructuring exercises across its operations, in the face of major financial difficulties (DK0201124N). In the latest round, launched in 2003 (SE0304104N), management once again demanded wage cuts and an increase in the number of hours worked by staff, and negotiations over these issues with trade unions representing various staff groups were held under the threat of redundancies if the employees did not accept the conditions of the company's cost-saving plan (DK0304102F)

In Denmark, the process of negotiations was completed on 24 March 2004 with a deal for cabin crew. After the negotiations, Verner Lundtoft Jensen, the president of the Cabin Attendants Union (Kabineforeningen for Cabin Attendants i SAS, CAU), with 1,600 members, stated that this was the worst agreement CAU had ever concluded, but that the union was forced to accept it in order to maintain jobs. The agreement for cabin staff involves a cut of about 12% in wages, supplements and pensions and a two-year wage freeze. Working time in the air for cabin attendants will be increased from 600 hours per year to close to 750 - ie 28 more working days per year and longer working days.

The Danish Airline Pilots’ Union (Dansk Pilotforening, DPF) finished negotiations over a deal for SAS pilots at the same time, accepting a 6% wage cut and relinquishing a number of bonuses and supplements for long working days, as well as accepting cuts in pension payments and travel costs. Part-time work is to be introduced for a number of pilots in order to prevent redundancies. Furthermore, lower pay rates have been introduced for pilots on short-haul flights in small planes, a growing area of operations. Elsewhere, the white-collar staff represented by the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (Handels- og Kontorfunktionærernes Fagforbund, HK) and the Union of Salaried Employees in SAS (Luftfartsfunktionærerne, LFF) accepted a 3% wage cut. Prior to the negotiations, the two unions had reservations about negotiating a wage decrease. HK does not believe that wage cuts alone will save the company, or jobs, in the longer perspective (DK0402102N).

In return for the their willingness to agree to the SAS cost-saving plan , the unions have demanded a guarantee from management a commitment that no redundancies will take place during the coming two years. So far, management has given only a partial guarantee.

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