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Editorial: Cooperation under pressure

| By Berit Kvam

Whatever happened to the Nordic negotiation model? people asked as news broke that SAS employees were told to accept longer hours for less pay or see the airline go bust.

And what about air safety? With a 47.5 hour working week? Then it turns out EU rules allow for even longer working weeks, and as our expert on labour law writes, the proposed rules now being considered by Brussels threaten air safety. That’s the view of both pilot organisations and air safety authorities. Nordic trade unions are on the war path, and pilots and cabin crew are planning protests across Europe on 22 January.

The aviation industry is arguably harder hit by global competition than any other trade. In Finland it has already adapted to the turbulence, says trade union leader Juhani Haapasaari. He believes Finnair have seen the worst of their cuts now.

In this month’s theme 'Globalisation of airlines - a walkout for safety?' Danish labour market researcher Flemming Ibsen fiercely attacks SAS’ ultimatum as being un-Nordic and removed from the Nordic negotiation model. He fears a precedent has been set allowing more employers to cut wages. Is this part of the same bitter pill that Southern Europe has been forced to swallow? Trade union leader Bente Sorgenfrey worries it is: cutting wages and people’s purchasing power, hitting growth and creating a downward spiral.

Nordic countries work hard to make sure the region can compete in a globalised world. The Nordic model, with its focus on cooperation between the social partners and a healthy work environment, can be an advantage when we compete for skilled workers on the international stage. Flemming Ibsen from Demark says this highlights the need for the Nordic countries to stand shoulder to shoulder. In light of this the SAS model appears foreign and threatening, although it would probably take more to derail solid traditions built on the spirit of cooperation.

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