On 5 March 2015 a pilot strike within Norwegian Air Norway (NAN) is affecting 35 000 customers. The flights between Scandinavia and Thailand (just as between Scandinavia and USA) are not affected. NAN is Norwegian’s Scandinavian subsidiary. NAN operates from the company’s Scandinavian bases.
All domestic flights in Norway are cancelled. In Sweden and Denmark, the strike affects some of the domestic flights, while most of the flights between the Scandinavian capitals are cancelled.
The escalated strike (which started off with only a limited number of pilots are on strike) is a result of failed negotiations between NAN and Norwegian Pilot Union (NPU). Norwegian’s management had tried to get a solution with NPU and the union Parat (union’s labour federation) to prevent that more passengers would be affected.
“Despite repeated attempts by Norwegian’s management to bring about constructive talks to avoid escalation of the strike, it has unfortunately not been possible to achieve a dialogue,” says Norwegian.
“NPU’s goal has been to control the company and the company’s production, obtain a collective agreement in a company they are not employed by, and that the Norwegian collective agreement should also apply outside Norway. Norwegian could not agree with the requirement of a common seniority list for all pilots; i.e. seniority in a company they are not employed in. In practice, this would mean that Scandinavian pilots could have an unfair advantage over colleagues at other bases in Europe,” according to a Norwegian press release.
“Norwegian had proposed several essential cost reductions to ensure a sustainable company and secure jobs in the future. Unfortunately, NPU/Parat did not meet these criteria. Instead, they had demands that conflicted with the collective agreement signed in 2013.”
Airline management has already resorted to using much cheaper Asian and other non-Scandinavian pilots and crews hired through crewing agencies for its recent route expansion. The company claims its Scandinavian pilots who were part of founding the airline just over a decade ago have become far too expensive and that their costs must be reduced, according to the news website newsinenglish.no.
Employees are reportedly feeling betrayed over Norwegian’s decision to operate the intercontinental routes with Asian crews who were paid a fraction of what their Scandinavian colleagues earned.
The pilots fear that Norwegian Air will declare the company unit in which they’re officially employed, NAN, bankrupt and try to replace them with pilots from overseas crewing agencies.
The union’s labour federation Parat claims the pilots would have priority for any and all jobs transferred to another entity if NAN is declared bankrupt. “And then they can also demand a collective bargaining agreement with that new employer,” Christen Horn Johannessen, a lawyer for Parat, told newspaer Dagens Naeringsliv.
The airline recently reported a pre-tax loss of NOK 1.6 billion for 2014.
The background to conflict started in the fall of 2012 when Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) started to use contract-employed pilots on routes within Scandinavia, which was considered by the NPU to be an abrogation of labour terms regarding non-Scandinavian pilots on routes within Scandinavia. NPU soon after sued NAS.
In October 2013, the NPU announced their intention to strike as NAS forced its pilots to face dismissal or transfer to Norwegian Air Norway or Norwegian Air Resources AB, both subsidiaries of NAS. The respective subsidiary would then lease the pilots back to NAS. NPU and their Swedish counterpart SPF accused NAS of using this ploy to break the solidarity and organization of the pilots, with the eventual goal of coercing pilots to converting their jobs to contract positions.
Norwegian has also received criticism for the terms of its contracts with its long-haul flight-attendants, who are on contracts based in Thailand. This has caused the Air Line Pilots Association to further accuse Norwegian of unfair competition practices.
The airline contests these accusations and has disclosed the pay scale for its Thai employee.
Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, commercially branded “Norwegian”, is a low-cost airline listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Norwegian is the second largest airline in Scandinavia and third largest low cost carrier in Europe.