The flying Dutchman – Dagsavisen

The flying Dutchman – Dagsavisen
The flying Dutchman – Dagsavisen

When Dutchman Anko van der Werff was hired in 2021 as the first non-Scandinavian top manager in SAS, he came from the Colombian airline Avianca. There he had just carried out a controversial financial operation. Namely, to apply for bankruptcy protection in the United States using a so-called Chapter 11 process.

On Tuesday morning, less than a day after the SAS pilots in Scandinavia went on strike, Van der Werff announced that the same thing will now happen in SAS: He is applying for bankruptcy protection in the USA using a so-called Chapter 11 process.

The pilots want secure, permanent positions in the company they are employed in. No worse and more unpredictable conditions in a subsidiary.

It remains to be seen what will now happen in SAS. But it is not entirely uninteresting to take a closer look at what happened in Avianca. After all, we are talking about the same top manager, the same process, in a company that operates immediately.

In principle, two things happened simultaneously in the South American company: Thousands of employees were laid off or resigned prematurely. The remaining employees accepted up to 80 percent salary cuts. At the same time, the company believed that it was important to maintain top management throughout the crisis. Therefore, large bonuses were paid out. $ 7.2 million in total. Of this, 2.7 million dollars, or just over 30 million kroner in direct bonuses went to Anko van der Werff.

Dagsavisen mener: Streiken er en katastrofe for SAS ]

The SAS management now says that they have to speed up the process of the restructuring program SAS Forward due to the pilot strike, and that this is the reason why they are applying for bankruptcy protection through the US legislation. One way to read this is for the management to step up the level of conflict in an attempt to force the opponent to give up. Maybe well helped by passengers who are not allowed to fly, but who get pissed off instead. In that case, it is a high stakes game. In Scandinavia, many passengers, who are themselves employees, will probably understand, sympathize with and show solidarity with the pilots’ most important demands.

The strike in SAS is not about money and much about principles. SAS Forward means, among other things, that SAS will establish two subsidiaries, SAS Link and SAS Connect. The pilots will then be moved, so that they lose their jobs in SAS Scandinavia and instead are employed in one of these subsidiaries, with poorer pay and working conditions. The 560 pilots who were laid off in connection with the pandemic, but who are entitled to re-entry for five years, are also pushed over to the subsidiaries and are not offered a job at SAS. They must also apply for a job again in the subsidiary instead. The same applies to cabin crew.

Just fasten your seat belts, straighten the back of the chair and hope for a soft landing without too much turbulence.

The unions have taken this process to the Labor Court. They believe it violates several provisions of the agreement between the parties. But a lawsuit takes a long time and does not trigger a strike right. Now that this conflict was part of the negotiations, it has given the pilots a better means of pressure – and perhaps the prospect of a faster solution.

This conflict is thus about what kind of working life we ​​want. The pilots want secure, permanent positions in the company they are employed in. No worse and more unpredictable conditions in a subsidiary. The cabin crew, who have now been laid off due to the strike, show solidarity with the pilots. So do a large number of trade unions in other unions and sectors.

Read more comments from Hege Ulstein

Traditionally, it is common to think that permanent, full-time positions, orderly working conditions, predictable terms and good salary and pension conditions are cost-driving for a company. That it becomes more cumbersome and less adaptable. While more temporary employees, lower salaries, use of subsidiaries and subcontractors, flexible schemes and simpler mechanisms for scaling the number of employees up and down, profitability and adaptability increase.

But it’s not that simple. How expensive, unadjustable and convoluted such a flexible and non-committal organization of work and business can be, in fact, aviation during and after the pandemic is a very good example of.

Eirik Riis Mossefinn: Mann over bord ]

The business newspaper The Financial Times, which can not be described as either left-wing or blood red, published a very interesting background article about the chaos that is ravaging the world’s airports a month ago. It shows that large parts of the delays, understaffing, cancellations, the long queues and the lost luggage are related to how the players in the aviation industry have chosen to organize.

The chaos is primarily due to the fact that it has become very difficult to obtain labor. A fragmented and complicated structure, where a myriad of subcontractors, subcontractors and third parties have to work together, like an advanced clockwork, is vulnerable. If only one of the gears stops, it creates chain reactions throughout the system. As so many people were laid off in connection with the pandemic, it is difficult to bring the workforce back when the traffic returns. Many have found other jobs in the meantime. And it does not help that the companies have pushed terms and wages as hard as they could. After all, having a job in a store, at fixed times and better pay, is more attractive than standing outside in the cold at two o’clock at night in an insecure job at a lower wage, as the Financial Times describes it. We can add that it is hardly particularly attractive to sit behind a counter at an airport and be scolded full of angry passengers for mistakes and shortcomings that one is not to blame at all.

Hege Ulstein: Alt er love ]

In addition, many of the experienced, older employees have taken severance packages or retired early. Thus, their experience, knowledge and qualifications are gone for good. It is not done in a flash to replace that competence by hiring a new and inexperienced employee. Then it does not help that the person in question is less well paid.

Several of the airlines blame the providers of various services on the ground and at the airports, and say that the chaos is due to the fact that they do not have enough people. But the heartbreak of these suppliers is that the same airlines have pushed margins all they can for years, which in turn has forced downsizing, writes The Financial Times.

It is difficult to imagine anything other than that SAS Forward will bring SAS even closer to a fragmented and unpredictable organization with poorer conditions and less attractive jobs – and thus this type of vulnerability.

Just fasten your seat belts, straighten the back of the chair and hope for a soft landing without too much turbulence.

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: flying Dutchman Dagsavisen