Hotel strike over, workers jubilant

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Norway’s lengthy and highly disruptive hotel strike ended during the night in what the unions were calling a victory. Hotels that have been closed by the strike were due to reopen at 3pm on Saturday.

Striking hotel workers, seen here parading through Oslo earlier this month, were jubilant on Saturday after they prevailed in their demands for the right to local negotiations and higher wages for the lowest-paid hotel workers. Hotels were reopening Saturday afternoon. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Striking hotel workers, seen here parading through Oslo earlier this month, were jubilant on Saturday after they prevailed in their demands for the right to local negotiations and higher wages for the lowest-paid hotel workers. Hotels were reopening Saturday afternoon. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

“This has been an important battle that gives us strength for the future,” Jørn Eggum, head of the trade union federation Fellesforbundet, said after his organization finally won an agreement with hotel and restaurant employers’ organization NHO Reiseliv. “It has been a long and tough battle, but it’s been important and a correct battle for us.”

Jostein Hansen, head of NHO Reiseliv, complained that the settlement proved “very expensive” for the hotels, but said he was glad the strike was over.

“We wanted a more reasonable settlement in a year that’s difficult for Norway overall, but apart from that, we are satisfied,” Hansen said.

With spirits high among the striking hotel workers, who also could claim widespread support from the public and even many displaced hotel guests, the hotel employers finally caved in to the unions’ two major demands: The hotels’ lowest-paid workers will get raises and, most importantly, the hotel workers will be able to negotiate locally in addition to nationwide collective bargaining.

“We are most satisified that we now have won local negotiating rights,” Eggum told state broadcaster NRK. Employers organized within NHO usually advocate local negotiations as well, because regional economic conditions can vary widely in Norway. In the case of the hotels, however, the big and powerful chains resisted local bargaining, preferring to have nationwide settlements.

There was internal conflict within NHO Reiseliv on the issue, however, and with some hotel employers publicly criticizing the organization and threatening to withdraw, NHO ultimately went along.

Its bosses resisted calling the settlement a major defeat, though “This is not a loss, there are no losers or winners here,” claimed Hansen. “We granted local negotiating rights, but we also won some terms that are important for us.” He also stressed that “we reached agreement and we brought an end to a conflict that has been difficult for many.”

Union officials also tried to put the best possible spin on their victory, without rubbing it in: “The most important thing now is to express our joy that the strike is over,” claimed union leaders in Tromsø. Others claimed that “everyone lost” during the strike, as others declared they were so happy the “nightmare” was over. “I cried with joy when I heard it was over,” said one worker at the Bårdshaug Herregård in Trøndelag.

The strike that began April 24 was to officially be called off following a formal vote among members of the unions and NHO Reiseliv. “We are relieved to have this proposal for a solution,” said Kristin Krohn Devold, the former Norwegian defense minister for the Conservative Party who now heads NHO Reiseliv. Nearly 8,000 hotel and restaurant workers were heading back to work, ending disruption at nearly 800 businesses nationwide and ensuring shelter for travelers in Norway.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund