Norwegian averts pilot strike with 11th-hour deal

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Norwegian has narrowly avoided industrial action by its flightcrew after reaching a last-minute labour agreement.

Some 603 pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark were preparing to walk out today, as the previous labour agreement expired on 3 November. Mediation talks between the Oslo-based low-cost carrier and the Norwegian Pilot Union (NPU) began on 1 November and continued over the weekend.

The dispute centred on the carrier’s planned reorganisation of its pilot employment structure, under which, it appeared, working conditions would vary across the Scandinavian countries.

The negotiations were "very hard" because the airline and union "stood far apart", says NPU head Halvor Vatnar in a statement. He adds that a "joint" collective-bargaining agreement for pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark has been reached, and will apply whether or not the airline’s reorganisation takes place.

Although employees are scattered across several subsidiaries, "we maintain a community in Scandinavia through an identical collective agreement", while Norwegian will have the "necessary freedom to streamline its operations", says NPU.

The new agreement also includes a reinstatement of a defined-benefits pension scheme.

Pilots in Finland, Spain and the UK will be guaranteed employment, while flightcrew hired through subsidiaries will be granted "good protection", NPU adds.

The airline, meanwhile, is "pleased" to have reached an agreement that allows both sides to "look forward and build a strong, competitive Norwegian that will secure jobs both in the air and on the ground", says chief executive Bjørn Kjos.