Teachers vote to go on strike

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UPDATED: Norwegian public schools look set for labour trouble when they’re due to reopen after the summer holidays that began this week. Tens of thousands of angry teachers nationwide have voted against accepting their union’s labour agreement with the public sector, and instead have called for a strike before classes resume in August.

School's out for the summer, but classrooms like this may be emptied by a teachers' strike this fall. This photos was taken during a recent visit by government ministers to Brannfjell School in Oslo. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

School’s out for the summer, but classrooms like this outside the capital may be emptied by a teachers’ strike this fall. This photo was taken during a recent visit by government ministers to Brannfjell School in Oslo, where teachers voted against striking. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that a clear majority of members in their labour organization  voted in favour of a strike. Fully 73 percent of those voting turned down the deal agreed by their union in May.

The teachers are especially furious that their union went along with demands from from local government organization KS that they physically spend 7.5 hours at their schools. The teachers want to maintain the more flexible workdays they have now, in which they often bring work home with them in return for fewer hours present at school.

Members of the teachers’ union were so angry over the result of labour negotiations between their union, Utdanningsforbundet, and KS last month that the agreement struck had to be put to a vote among the teachers themselves. Voting started last week and results were announced on Wednesday. There will be no strike in Oslo, however, where teachers voted separately on the negotiated settlement and 55 percent approved it.

Utdanningsforbundet represents the most teachers nationwide, around 93,000 nationwide. NRK reported that another teachers’ union, Norsk Lektorlag, had also voted against the same agreement that Utdanningforbundet’s members have now rejected.

One school in Bergen has been chosen as the first to be affected by the strike, which officially begins July 1. Since schools have just closed for the eight-week summer holiday, the consequences of the teachers’ strike won’t become serious until school is supposed to start up again in August.

“We’ll begin the strike immediately in Bergen, and extend it rapidly when school is due to start,” Ragnhild Lied, leader of Utdanningsforbundet, said at a press conference Wednesday.

There may also be a settlement between now and then, union officials noted, but another local union leader warned the strike may be long and extensive.

Lied admitted earlier this month that she was unprepared for the resounding criticism of the union’s agreement with KS. She had recommended the teachers accept the negotiated settlement, but now claims the teachers’ dissatisfaction reflects a lack of confidence in how KS and their local government employers would carry it out.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund