The row between the regional Swiss carrier, Crossair, and its pilots has flared up again after the pilot's union rejected a new collective working agreement. The head of the group has threatened to close certain services and cut jobs.
In the "SonntagsZeitung" newspaper, the head of SAirGroup, Philippe Bruggisser, said that further adjustments to the new collective contract were not being considered. SAirGroup has a majority stake in Crossair.
At the beginning of the year, the Basel-based short-haul carrier suffered a loss of SFr6.1 million ($3.4 million). Bruggisser argued that, at present, "Crossair is not in a position to absorb a new hike in costs".
On Friday evening, nearly 63 per cent of the pilot's union rejected the new collective contract that was negotiated with Crossair by union representatives last month. The new contract would have cost the company an additional SFr30-40 million.
Bruggisser warned that, as a result, drastic action would have to be taken. "If the pilots do not agree to the propositions which came out of the negotiations, and continue to ask for more concessions, then we will have to proceed with a dramatic restructuring programme."
The head of Crossair's parent company reportedly said that between five and ten planes could be grounded or sold. In addition, expansion of the Crossair fleet has been put on hold.
He also threatened there could be job losses and the suspension of certain flights. Plans to close business ventures which are no longer profitable are also in the pipeline, said Ms Tschanz, the group's spokeswoman.
"We hope that we do not have to take such radical measures," she stressed. According to Tschanz, the company's top priority is to come to an agreement with the Crossair pilots.
The new collective contract was signed on September 11 and was meant to put an end to a year of tension between the pilots and management.
The five-year contract included salaries adjusted to market levels, improved insurance cover, more holidays and more days off.
It also offered additional payments for overtime and improved regulations concerning actual flying times. In addition, pilots with seniority would be first in line for retraining in larger aircraft.
The Belgian airline, Sabena, in which SairGroup holds a 49.5 per cent stake, has also run into financial trouble. Last week it announced that up to 500 jobs would be axed and services reduced in order to try to get back into the black.
Sabena said it expects to post an operating loss of $123 million for this year and that the forecasts for 2001 do not look any better. Sabena posted a first half operating loss of $50 million, down from an operating profit of $333 milllion in the same period last year.
swissinfo with agencies