SAS and striking pilots are closing in on an agreement, but problems remain, mediator tells E24

STOCKHOLM, July 16 (Reuters)SAS airline in crisis SAS.ST and unions have made progress on a new savings deal to end a 13-day pilots’ strike, but significant issues still need to be resolved, a mediator told the E24 news agency on Saturday.

A majority of SAS pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway quit the job on July 4 after negotiations over terms relating to the Scandinavian carrier’s bailout failed. The parties returned to the negotiating table in the Swedish capital on Wednesday.

Norway’s national ombudsman, Mats Wilhelm Ruland, said the sides had grown closer during the day.

“Yes, we are, but there are still many big issues to be resolved,” he told E24 during a break in negotiations on Saturday. “The development in the first hours was good.”

SAS had been grappling with increased low-cost competition for years before the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the airline industry. The governments of Denmark and Sweden, which are the main owners, consider it a key part of the region’s transport infrastructure.

The airline said Thursday the strike caused 2,550 flight cancellations, affecting 270,000 passengers and costing the carrier between $94 million and $123 million.

Pilots employed by SAS Scandinavia, a SAS Group subsidiary, said they would accept limited pay cuts and less favorable terms, but SAS said the concessions offered so far were not enough for it to carry out a rescue plan announced in February.

Unions are also demanding that pilots who lost their jobs during the pandemic be rehired at SAS Scandinavia, rather than having to compete with external candidates for jobs on less attractive terms at the recently established SAS Link and SAS Connect based in Ireland.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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