Airports spared more strike action

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UPDATED: Security guards headed back to work on Saturday and Norway’s airports and airlines, braced for more possible disruption next week, were spared. A strike by security guards was forcibly settled by state officials Friday night, and airline mechanics and workers at state airport authority Avinor decided not to strike after all.

Airlines SAS and Norwegian, already upset and threatening layoffs because of the security guard strike that clogged airports and discouraged passengers from flying, were facing a strike of their own. Around 500 airline mechanics were poised to walk off the job from midnight Friday if their demands weren’t met but they agreed on a settlement during the night.

Officials at both SAS and Norwegian had claimed they didn’t think the strike by members of the free-standing mechanics’ union Norsk Flytekniker Organisasjon (NFO) would immediately disrupt airline service. It would have affected mechanics for SAS, its domestic carrier in Norway Widerøe and Norwegian at six of Norway’s biggest airports, but the mechanics’ work involves mostly inspections that didn’t need to be carried out during the weekend.

The effects of a strike thus weren’t likely to be felt until Monday or Tuesday,when one jet after another would be taken out of service for inspection but remain grounded because the inspection won’t be carried out. The situation was the same for the other airlines, with Anne-Sissel Skånvik of Norwegian saying that “it would take some time” before a strike by the mechanics disrupted airline schedules.

A strike by 180 workers at Avinor who are members of trade union confederation LO Stat, however, could have led to a halt in all commercial traffic at eight airports airports around Norway from 8am Saturday. They included the main airports at Ålesund, Harstad/Narvk, Kirkenes, Ørsta/Volda, Førde, Brønnøysund and Leknes. Stavanger’s main airport at Sola would close from 7am on Monday.

Avinor officials warned that strike action was also expected at the airports at Oslo Gardermoen and Trondheim Værnes, and inititially said it likely wouldn’t disrupt airport operations. Late on Friday afternoon, however, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was reporting that Avinor would close the airports at Trondheim and Bergen if emergency service workers were affected.

After two weeks of various, relatively massive, strike action around Norway, both sides opted against more airport disruption at the height of the summer tourist season. Settlements were reached at 2am and 5am Saturday.

For the latest official information from Avinor, go to Avinor’s site  (external link) and click on the “News” column off to the right. You’ll also find a list of websites for individual airports. Click here for OSL Gardermoen, here for Bergen Flesland and here for Stavanger Sola.

The strike by security guards, meanwhile, had entered its seventh day on Friday, causing long lines at airport security control and forcing closure of some airports entirely. Around 200 security guards were on strike at OSL Gardermoen alone when the state labour minister stepped in to end the strike. Around half the minibanks (automated teller machines, ATMs) around the country had also run empty of cash, because of a lack of guards for currency transport.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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