Frustration rises over hotel strike

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As Norway’s nationwide hotel strike drags on, frustration is running high not only among stranded travelers but also hotel owners unhappy with their own employers’ bargaining organization NHO Reiseliv. One has already checked out of the group, claiming it lacks willingness to negotiate with the unions, and a new attempt at mediation was set for early next week.

Only a sriker's yellow vest was left on a chair outside the entrance of the Thon Hotel Kirkenes this week. The hotel closed shortly after the strike began, as did the local Scandic, leaving stranded guests with few options. PHOTO:

Only a striker’s yellow vest was left on a chair outside the entrance of the Thon Hotel Kirkenes this week. It was among the many hotels all over the country that had to close shortly after the strike began, leaving stranded guests with few options. PHOTO:

“Something is very wrong when there’s a strike this year,” Per Carlenius, chief executive of the foundation running the Anker Hotel and student housing chain, told newspaper Klassekampen on Friday. “We have good relations with our workers. We don’t have time nor can we afford to be caught in a conflict this long.”

The hotel industry in general had also been doing very well and logging record results until the strike began. Nearly 8,000 hotel and restaurant workers have since been called off the job, and Carlenius said the strike is now costing Anker Hotels NOK 200,000 per day.

“We’re really bleeding from this, and the people paying for it are the students,” he told Klassekampen. Since Anker was a member of NHO Reiseliv, and its employees members of the union representing hotel and restaurant workers, Fellesforbundet, Anker’s hotels in the Oslo area that help finance student housing were among those targeted in the strike that began in late April.

Digging in their heels
Other hotel managers and owners have also voiced frustration with their organization, claiming they have no conflicts with their own employees and that they just want to get back to work. NHO Reiseliv was remaining firm, however, that it won’t give in to union demands for higher wages for the hotels’ lowest-paid workers and for local negotiating rights at individual hotels. Their stand comes even though NHO itself, Norway’s largest employers’ organization, usually advocates local negotiations over centralized collective bargain in other industries.

“We see that there have been differences of opinion between the big hotel chains and other independent operators,” Clas Delp of Fellesforbundet told Klassekampen. “That’s a challenge that NHO has internally, to unite the large and the small, those operating in the cities and those in small towns.” NHO Reiseliv seems to have favoured the large chains that want to set wages centrally, over smaller local operators who don’t object to local negotiations.

Mediation effort looms
Meanwhile, the strike was hurting many areas where hotel accommodation is limited. It also has left stranded visitors with lasting memories of spoiled holidays or business trips, not least in areas where alternative lodging was hard to find.

As the deadlocked strike headed into its fourth week, a state mediator summoned officials from NHO Reiseliv and Fellesforbundet to a meeting on Tuesday, to see whether there was any opening for a settlement. At this point, lots of prestige is at stake, with neither NHO Reiseliv nor Fellesforbundet willing to admit defeat. The prospective loss of members and internal strife will increase pressure on NHO Reiseliv officials, however, and may boost prospects for mediation.

Fellesforbundet, meanwhile, could boast a surge in membership late this week, and already has claimed it has a strike fund large enough to sustain striking members all year if necessary. All new members who work at hotels affected by the strike were also expected to be called out on strike. Berglund