Harbor strikes loom all over Norway

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In addition to looming strikes at both Norwegian Air and 69 hotels nationwide next week, harbor workers are threatening to walk off the job and otherwise disrupt the loading and unloading of cargo vessels at harbors around the country. Labour organizations warned that a strike could be called from midnight on Friday.

Labour conflicts have been flaring up at Norwegian harbors during the past year, over demands by the transport workers’ union NTF (Norsk Transportarbeiderfobund) that they have exclusive rights to load and unload vessels. Their monopoly on such work, they claim, is in line with international dockworkers’ agreements.

‘Old-fashioned’ labour rules
Many harbor managers and shipping lines, however, now claim such rights are outdated and old-fashioned. Among them is shipping firm Holship which, reports newspaper Dagsavisen, wants to use its own employees to handle loading operations when one of its ships sails into Drammen on Saturday.

Holship, which has refused to sign tariff agreements with NTF, has now asked for police protection and help from the harbor authorities in Drammen if they’re met with a threatened blockade by dockworkers.

Complicated
The prospect of other shipping lines rising up against the long-held monopoly of the dockworkers has set off the strike warning from this weekend. It’s a complicated labour situation, though, because Norway’s largest labour confederation LO has unions under it representing workers on both sides of the issue. In Drammen, for example, Holship’s own employees are organized in another union, Norsk Arbeidsmandsforbund, while the dockers are in NTF, which also is part of LO.

Their county chapter, though, claims the international dockworkers’ agreement used by NTF takes precedence, with labour officials claiming the Holship workers are “organized in the wrong union.”

A strike from Saturday would add to the labour conflicts facing Norway next week, just as it heads into the climax of this year’s bicentennial celebrations on the 17th of May. Farmers, meanwhile, are also threatening various protest actions around the country because they’re unhappy with the offer of state support they received earlier this week from the government.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund