Air Greenland prepared to lock out mechanics | Polarjournal
No place but home (Photo: Julia Hager)

For anyone who wants to get to Greenland aboard a commercial airliner, there is one option: the daily Air Greenland flight between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq, site of the country’s primary international airport. So, when Dansk Metal, a union, announced last week that the two mechanics it represents who service the Airbus A330 that serves the route would go on strike on 9 April, the message was that it was prepared to shut down virtually all passenger travel and a good deal of cargo transport to the island until Air Greenland agreed to higher wages for all of the 70 mechanics it employs.

Should that happen, Air Greenland has announced that it will ground all domestic traffic two days later, in part because the majority of those flights are taken in connection with the flight to and from Kangerlussuaq. What’s more, vital replacement parts for its aeroplanes and helicopters are flown to Greenland on its flight from Copenhagen, and, without them, they would gradually be taken out of service. Grounding everything, Air Greenland admits, will affect nearly everyone in Greenland, but by doing so right off the bat it reckons both sides will be in more of a mood to find a quick settlement.

Also putting pressure on negotiators to find a quick solution is the April start date. Greenland’s tourism season begins in May; that gives the two parties the better part of a month to sort out their differences, but Greenland’s tourism industry suffered the brunt of the pandemic, and there is little appetite on either side to be held at fault for a setback that, unlike the pandemic, could have been avoided. Both will be able to try their hand at winning public opinion well before then, however: the Thursday and Friday before Easter, which falls on 17 April this year, as well as Easter Monday, are public holidays in Greenland and it is a busy domestic-travel period.

Standing his ground (File photo: Kevin McGwin)

Originally, the union and the airline should have sat down to renegotiate their collective-bargaining agreement in 2020. Both parties agreed to extend the agreement until the other side of the pandemic, but, now that we are there, they are locked in a classic labour-dispute: Dansk Metal is demanding higher wages that Air Greenland does not want to pay. To be sure, Air Greenland does not disagree outright, but it would like the union to base its inflation calculations on Greenland’s price index — as its other employee groups have done — not how Dansk Metal expects they will rise in the near-term in Denmark, where the union is headquartered and inflation is running at its highest rate in 30 years. A deal is possible, but landing it will require both parties to move towards each other.

Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal

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