Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i News i News 2023 i Denmark and Sweden on the barricades over pilots and crew compensation

Denmark and Sweden on the barricades over pilots and crew compensation

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg

Denmark and Sweden are once again out defending the Nordic labour market model. This time it is about a new case before the EU Court questioning whether cabin crew receiving lower allowances than pilots constitutes gender discrimination.

Since their terms of employment are regulated through two separate collective agreements, the answer must be no argue Denmark and Sweden. Otherwise, it would no longer be possible to maintain the freedom of negotiation. 

The cabin crew and pilots have the same employer but are organised in different trade unions. The cabin crew signed their collective agreement in 2019 and the other collective agreement was entered into by the pilots’ trade union just over a year later.

It is easy to understand that the cabin crew felt unjustly treated when they saw that the pilots got higher allowance levels than them for work-related costs. They also argued that the difference in compensation effectively amounted to gender discrimination because cabin crew are predominantly women while the majority of pilots are men.

They took the matter to court, and eventually, the issue ended up in the EU Court of Justice, which will now decide if they are right or if this differential treatment is justifiable.

It is justifiable, according to both the Danish and Swedish governments, both of which have delivered their opinions in the case. Another approach would have unforeseeable and negative consequences for the autonomy of the social partners and their ability to negotiate and enter into collective agreements, argues the Swedish government.

The government underlines that it is common for employers to be bound by two or more separate collective agreements negotiated at different levels and with different groups of employees. During negotiations, the parties represent different interests and make different priorities based on the interests of the company, the industry, and the members. 

While one party may prioritise higher wages, another may prioritise shorter working hours or more generous rules for work journeys. 

If you start comparing conditions in different collective agreements negotiated between different parties, you risk ending up with a situation where the freedom of negotiation for the parties can no longer be maintained, according to the government.

This could, among other things, mean that parties that are in the process of negotiating a collective agreement become indirectly bound by conditions in other collective agreements to which they are not party because they would be required to consider the provisions of the other agreements.

The question is whether the EU Court will agree.


Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment