Municipal strike over, not at Opera
June 9, 2010
Norway’s biggest strike in more than 30 years ended on Wednesday, after a hectic and lengthy round of mediation. Nearly 50,000 local government workers all over the country could start returning to work, but striking singers and dancers still aren’t letting the curtain go up at Oslo’s Opera House.
Municipal employers group KS said the local government workers would get an average pay raise of 3.4 percent. Everyone was due to receive a 2.1 percent pay hike, or a minimum of NOK 7,100 per year, while another NOK 1.2 billion would be divvied up at the local level over the next two years.
Leaders of all the unions involved agreed to the revised offer from KS, but their membership must now vote on it. Some strikers were already complaining that the proposed settlement didn’t meet raises sought for lower-paid professions, to help close a pay gap between men and women.
The strike, which began about two weeks ago, had closed many schools and kindergartens and disrupted government services from garbage collection to nursing home care. Nearly 30,000 more workers were due to be pulled out on strike Wednesday, but the mediation round and prospects for a settlement had prevented the strike from spreading further.
Meanwhile, a strike continues among singers and dancer at the Norwegian Opera, forcing cancellation of performances. Each cancellation reportedly is costing the opera around NOK 500,000.
There were no signs of any swift settlement. Members of the musicians’ union representing the singers and dancers feel “let down” by Norway’s minister for cultural affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt, because they haven’t received the same pay raises granted to their counterparts last year in cities such as Bergen and Stavanger.
That means the performers in Oslo are earning around NOK 33,000 less per year than their colleagues elsewhere. “This is hopeless, and a strike no one wanted,”soprano Toril Carlsen told newspaper Aftenposten. She’s among those out on the picket line at the popular Opera House on Oslo’s eastern waterfront.
“We had negotiated for a long time, and for once, management agreed with us,” Carlsen continued. “But then suddenly Minister Huitfeldt stopped everything.” Huitfeldt declined to comment on the conflict.
Opera officials stressed once again that ticket holders can get their money refunded.