Price war with Hungarian wages

Price war with Hungarian wages
Price war with Hungarian wages

Wizz Air will probably fly in Norway with Hungarian salaries. It could be the beginning of the end for Norwegian jobs in aviation.

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The Hungarian airline Wizz Air will start flights between Oslo and Bergen, Tromsø and Trondheim on 5 November. If they are allowed to fly with Hungarian pay, Norwegian and SAS will after a quarter of an hour be able to be pressured to do the same, writes BT commentator Hans K. Mjelva. Photo: Andrew Boyers / X03813


This is a comment. Comments are written by BT’s commentators, editors and guest commentators, and express their own opinions and analyzes.

In three weeks comes the low-cost company Wizz Air with a new great offer on flights between Bergen and Oslo: 199 kroner.

But despite this good news for all travelers, the Hungarian company has been met with icy Norwegian shoulders.

The company does not like trade unions. As Wizz boss József Váradi told Dagens Næringsliv on Tuesday: “Trade unions are not my thing”.

This led Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) to say, from the rostrum in the Storting, that she wanted to boycott the company. This is not exactly a daily diet.

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But for the employees in norwegian aviation, the union crushing is not the worst, even if it is bad enough – and violates norwegian law.

For Norwegian aircraft employees, it is worse that Wizz Air will probably fly domestically in Norway with Hungarian wages and working conditions. In the long run, it could put Norwegian and SAS in the same position, provided they survive the corona crisis.

When I write “probably”, it is because Wizz Air does not give any details about how they want to operate the Norwegian domestic routes.

According to Váradi, they pay “market wages”. But it is not the same as Norwegian wages, or Norwegian working hours for that matter.

The company says they will follow laws and regulations in Norway. But there is nothing that can stop them from flying in Norway on Hungarian wages, provided they organize themselves in the right way.

Wages and working conditions, including lengths of guards and such, is by far the only international airline that can compete for. Most other costs, such as fuel, airfare and taxes, are relatively the same for everyone.

Should Wizz Air succeed In order to keep wages on the Norwegian domestic routes down, they must in practice employ people in their home countries. If the company establishes a permanent base with staff living in Norway, their salaries will simply not be enough.

And that is what makes Wizz Air take the job of the Norwegian employees in SAS and Norwegian, if we now keep the corona crisis out: It is not possible to live on a Hungarian salary in Norway.

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Hans K. Mjelva about the bus strike: If the drivers are to receive a higher salary, you and I must pay more

The Wizz Air case goes into a pattern created by the EEA agreement. Workers from EU countries are free to work in Norway for wages far lower than the Norwegian collective wage.

Because this has the potential to undermine Norwegian wage conditions, and in practice outcompete Norwegian employees, the Storting can order everyone within an industry to follow collective pay.

It has been done in everything from cleaning to shipbuilding, but not until now in aviation. But I believe Norwegian and SAS have become far more interested in such a solution – they and the unions must come together to bring about a generalization.

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Hans K. Mjelva: “Shit” with the EEA agreement

Certainly it can not be difficult with Norwegians on board the plane. Competition from a company with a fraction of the salary level, on the most profitable routes, SAS and Norwegian can not live with over time. Then they will probably also flag out and use low-wage workers from other countries.

I do not think it happens. I guess that progress will now be seen in achieving a generalization. It will sound far better politically, not least now when the governing party Høgre itself has become a warm friend of trade union courts.

In addition, airlines want more corona support. You do not bite your hand as before. Especially not when she belongs to Erna Solberg.


Published: October 15, 2020 6:23 PM

Updated: October 15, 2020 8:25 PM

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