SAS pilots in Sweden head toward strike after rejecting mediators' bid
STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN/OSLO (Reuters) - Swedish pilots at airline SAS rejected a bid tabled by mediators on Thursday and began preparing to strike if a compromise cannot be reached by midnight, a move that could potentially disrupt travel plans for about 170,000 people. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilot unions had earlier this month called for 1,500 pilots to go on strike on April 26 if no agreement was reached on wages and other issues after an earlier round of talks failed to bear results
STOCKHOLM/COPENHAGEN/OSLO (Reuters) - Swedish pilots at airline SAS rejected a bid tabled by mediators on Thursday and began preparing to strike if a compromise cannot be reached by midnight, a move that could potentially disrupt travel plans for about 170,000 people.
Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilot unions had earlier this month called for 1,500 pilots to go on strike on April 26 if no agreement was reached on wages and other issues after an earlier round of talks failed to bear results.
Torbjörn Granevärn, head of negotiations at the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises' airlines section, said Swedish pilots had rejected the proposal despite provisions that provided greater scheduling predictability.
"We think that is very unfortunate ... We will continue to work intensively and do our utmost to prevent a strike at midnight," he said in an emailed statement late on Thursday.
SAS spokeswoman Freja Annamatz was not immediately reachable for comment.
The Scandinavian airline, which normally flies around 800 flights per day, had said earlier on Thursday that it would cancel 205 flights from midnight until noon on Friday as a precautionary measure.
National mediators in the three countries have been trying to broker a deal since last week between SAS and four pilots unions.
The Danish union was not immediately reachable for comment. However, Norwegian state mediator Mats Ruland told public broadcaster NRK that the breakdown of Swedish mediation did not directly affect negotiations with pilots in Norway.
"The negotiation here is for SAS Norway, and is still ongoing," he said, while adding that the talks in Oslo could continue well past midnight.
A strike would affect 70 percent of SAS flights, with the remaining 30 percent operated by partners left unaffected. Around 170,000 travellers could be impacted if the strike lasted through the weekend, according to Annamatz.
Earlier this week, the airline offered travellers concerned about a possible strike the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.
SAS is in the midst of renewing an elderly and fuel-intensive fleet after spending years cutting costs in the face of cut-price competition from budget carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.
The airline reported a bigger-than-expected loss for its fiscal first quarter in February, but said it still expected to record a profit for the full year.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Andreas Mortensen, Nerijus Adomaitis and Esha Vaish and Terje Solsvik; editing by Jan Harvey, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)
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