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ISSUE 61 page 3

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Last minute deal saves SAS airline as unions accept pay cuts and job losses
 THE SAS GROUP WHICH RUNS THE AIRLINE PARTLY OWNED by the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish governments recently gave trade unions one week to agree to cuts which they said were necessary to stave off bankruptcy. In order to increase their credit at the bank from 3.1 to 3.5 billion Swedish krona (about £330 million) management demanded a reduction in ground staff from 15,000 to 9,000, the sale of the ‘Widerøe’ regional airline and the loss of administrative posts as the company is centralised in Stockholm. Officials from the nine unions involved, spread over three different countries, rejected the terms and insisted on real negotiations right up to and past the supposed deadline. Anneli Nyberg, head of the flight attendants union in Norway, said that her members were not very happy with the final deal ‘but I don’t think SAS is either’.
SAS Planes
CAU, the Danish union which was the last to sign up, will also accept lower pay, poorer pensions and more hours on the job. The average pay cut for union members will be about 10% while top management have promised to reduce theirs by 20%. SAS calculates that it will save about 3 billion Swedish krona in costs and will gain from the sale of Widerøe and its check-in and baggage handling services. In addition to being a major employer itself, SAS provides about 70% of the business for Scandinavian airports and carries most of the mail and cargo in the region. So bankruptcy would have had serious consequences for the entire Nordic transport system. As well as the job losses, pilots in Norway will take a 30% pay and work longer hours as their Swedish counterparts lose a month’s salary per year

Former ‘airline of the year’ SAS

 

 

Attacks on unions added to jobs crisis in Greece

Health workers protest/ strike across East Europe

AS IF THE GREEK PEOPLE DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH to contend with in being at the centre of the financial storm that has engulfed the euro currency following the economic crash from 2008, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found in favour of complaints from Greek trade unions about attacks on their freedom from the so-called ‘troika’ that has administered its large dose of austerity. This economic task force, made up of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, was also criticised by the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament. Measures taken such as reducing the minimum wage for young people below the poverty level, increasing working hours and setting wages without negotiation have been urged on the Greek government by experts from the troika. The austerity policy itself has resulted in burgeoning unemployment which has now reached 26% (up from 18.9% in a year) overall and and 57.6% among young people. The ILO ‘expects that the social partners will be fully involved’ in any future agreements with the troika which concern ‘the human rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining and which are fundamental to the very basis of democracy and social peace’. As trade union adviser Ronald Janssen wrote in a recent blog post about the European Commission finance directorate entitled ‘We are all Greeks!’: what is the point of the ILO, the Council of Europe and the Charter of Fundamental Rights if ‘these institutions and instruments [do] not offer any protection against this “wild west” attack from the cowboys’.

THE HEALTH CARE SECTOR IN EASTERN EUROPE has a reputation for low salaries, long working hours and staff shortages. This is made worse by the ease with which medical staff can migrate to Western Europe where better-paid vacancies await. Now trade unions in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, sometimes known as the Visegrád four, have got together to protest to their respective governments. To begin with the action will be symbolic but the head of the Hungarian Doctors’ Association warned that ‘tougher means’ would be used if this ‘last warning’ was not heeded by the authorities. In the Czech Republic staff in about sixty hospitals held protest meetings wearing t-shirts bearing the symbol of a fleeing doctor, a reference to a prevous campaign of mass resignations with the slogan ‘Thanks we are leaving’. Although such action had already won pay increases in 2012, a Czech hospital doctor still only earns the equivalent of £1,950 per month while the basic salary in Hungary is €1,466 and a Slovak nurse subsists on a minimum wage of between €640 and €928 monthly.  
Elsewhere in the East, Estonian health care workers ended their strike in October after hospital management agreed to increase minimum rates of pay and reduce workloads. In Croatia nurses joined with teachers in striking to restore their collective bargaining agreement, cancelled by the government as part of an austerity drive which saw salaries and bonuses cut.




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