SAS negotiations with unions continue past deadline

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SAS Group has continued negotiations with labour unions past its 18 November midnight deadline in a last-ditch effort to obtain the support it needs to secure a fresh round of financing.

The Scandinavian airline said its "existence" depends on collective agreements being reached for the new '4XNG' restructuring programme, which it announced last week.

SAS's board was due to meet and make a decision on 18 November to decide if the conditions have been met.

"The board will decide if the conditions for implementing the plan exist. Full implementation of the plan is a condition for the banks and major owners to provide access to the necessary funding," the company said earlier on Sunday.

As the deadline passed, media reports in the country say that the airline's management has agreed to extend negotiations with employees beyond Sunday as the talks appeared to be making headway.

SAS has negotiated a tentative agreement with banks and shareholders to extend a credit facility between SKr3.1 billion ($457 million) and Skr3.5 billion, and to extend the term to March 2015. This, however, is conditional on obtaining support from unions.

The carrier had previously said the plan will result in total annual savings of around SKr3 billion and will also result in some of SAS's assets being sold at around SKr3 billion. It is understood that implementation of the plan will also translate into sizable wage cuts for its employees.

"I know we are asking a lot of our employees, but there is no other way," the airline said.

SAS is aiming for earnings profitability in excess of 8% by around 2014-15, under the new plan. It says the restructuring will enable the company to "compete effectively" in the private-travel market, while retaining its position in the business-travel market.

SAS's revenue at the nine-month point reached SKr32 billion and the company more than halved pre-tax losses to SKr193 million. SAS was profitable at pre-tax level for the quarter ended 30 September, with a surplus of SKr568 million.