Mediator averts major state strike

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State mediator Nils Dalseide helped head off a major strike on Thursday that would have pulled more than 5,000 state employees off the job within the police, government ministries, state welfare agency NAV and many other state services. It was thus business as usual after weeks of tough negotiations.

State mediator Nils Dalseide has been a busy man during Norway's annual spring season for labour negotiations. He was getting much of the credit for warding off a major strike by state workers. PHOTO: Arbeidsdepartementet

State mediator Nils Dalseide has been a busy man during Norway’s annual spring season for labour negotiations. He was getting much of the credit on Thursday for warding off a major strike by state workers. PHOTO: Arbeidsdepartementet

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that workers will now get a 2.4 percent pay raise, including 1.5 percent for everyone and the other 0.9 percent distributed locally. The actual amount of the pay raise had not been a problem, with all unions involved in the negotiations agreeing to a relatively modest increase in tougher economic times.

The thornier issue was over how the money would be distributed. State officials and union federation YS Stat agreed on a formula in which 50 percent of the so-called tillegg (the additional amount above the standard 1.5 percent for all) would be distributed centrally and the other 50 percent locally through additional negotiations within agencies and other branches of the state public sector.

“We’re satisfied with the result,” said Pål Arnesen, leader of YS Stat. “All in all, the mediation (led by Dalseide) has given us a better result on the distribution … we have received a better collective bargaining agreement.”

The two other large union federations involved, LO Stat and Unio Stat, also came to terms with the state, clearly a relief for the government minister involved, Jan Tore Sanner, who’s also dealing with the major issue of trying to merge and reduce the number of local governments in Norway at present. A strike, coming just after a disruptive nationwide hotel strike was finally settled, would have severely disrupted state operations, with the unions threatening to expand it quickly.

The settlement came after six hours of overtime talks that extended past the midnight strike deadling on Wednesday. One major issue over pension rights, however, was postponed. “We have retained our right to pension negotiations for now, and won a better pay profile for our members,” claimed Petter Aaslestad, who led talks on behalf of Unio Stat. There will be no changes in pension terms for state employees, at least for now.

“These have been very demanding negotiations and everyone involved has had to contribute,” Sanner stated in a press release Thursday morning. “I would like to praise the national mediator (Dalseide) and those involved for a good and constructive tone throughout the negotiating period. I’m especially glad we achieved a more modern and simplified pay and negotiating system within the state.”

Tone Rønoldtangen of the largest union federation, LO Stat, said she was “very glad that we have setttled this without a conflict,” she told NRK. “I’m not so happy that we didn’t manage to settle the pension issue, and am sorry about that.” Pension negotiating rights are thus bound to come up again in future labour talks.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund