COPENHAGEN/OSLO Nov 13 Crisis-hit Scandinavian
airline SAS has no room to cut a deal with unions to
ease the pain of pay cuts and job losses as it fights for
survival, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
SAS, which has not made a full-year profit since 2007,
unveiled a do-or-die plan this week, which unions must approve
for it to receive loans from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the
company's other lenders.
"We have made a plan that we need to implement in full to
get the required backing from our principal shareholders and our
banks," CEO Rickard Gustafson told Danish TV2.
"Of course that comes across as quite definitive, but we
have very little room for negotiation."
SAS, in which Sweden, Norway and Denmark hold a combined 50
percent stake, plans to shed 6,000 jobs through centralising
administration and selling some operations, hoping to reduce
costs to a level where it can compete with rivals such as
Norwegian Air Shuttle.
The more than 30 unions that represent SAS's employees have
been given until Sunday to sign up to the programme, which aims
to boost results by 6 billion Swedish crowns ($885 million).
SAS won't be able to keep flying without the loans and its
other major shareholders have ruled out injecting new cash.
"We feel this suggested plan is an ultimatum more than
anything else," said Jan Levi Skogvang, leader of Norwegian
union Parat, adding that the union's members appear to
understand the situation faced by the airline. Parat represents
about 1,200 SAS staff.
A spokesman for the Danish cabin staff union CAU, which
represents 1,400 staff in Copehagen, declined to comment on
whether the union would recommend the plan.
As part of the plan SAS aims to sell its profit-making
Norwegian operation Wideroe. A group of Wideroe employees,
represented by pilot Ola Giaever, confirmed that they are
working on a possible buyout.
SAS is only one of a number of airlines forced to cut costs
in the face of high fuel prices and competition from budget
International Airlines Group last week announced
that its Spanish carrier Iberia would shed almost a quarter of
its workforce and Deutsche Lufthansa is also in the
midst of a "painful" cost-cutting drive.
SAS's survival plan, however, has been greeted with
scepticism in the Nordic region, where governments have pumped
billions of taxpayer crowns into the company through two rights
issues in four years.
Swedish business daily Dagens Industri said SAS might not
survive, even if unions swallow the bitter pill of lower
salaries, less generous pensions and asset sales.
"The basic problem is that ... SAS has been unable to adapt
to a deregulated airline market, but it has been made worse by
weak leadership from its owners, strategic about turns and
Norwegian business daily NA24 was also gloomy. "It is more
than doubtful whether these measures are sufficient to ensure
the future of SAS," the paper said.