All-night talks failed to end train strike

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Even after 16 hours of talks with the national mediator present, striking locomotive engineers and state railway NSB failed to reach a settlement during the night. That means the strike that has cancelled trains and plagued commuters for weeks will not only continue but get worse.

“We didn’t reach agreement on anything,” Rolf Ringdal, leader of the engineers’ union told Norwegian Broadcasting shortly after 4am. “And we stretched ourselves far in order to come to terms with NSB.”

NSB flatly disagreed. “In reality, the (union) Lokomotivmannsforbundet hasn’t changed any of its positions,” said Gunnar Larsen of Spekter, the employers’ organization representing NSB.

Deadlocked
Their talks, which began at noon on Tuesday after the locomotive engineers presented a new settlement proposal, were conducted in the presence of the national mediator but he couldn’t manage to find enough common ground to end the strike. The union claimed that NSB “clearly doesn’t want to agree with us on a national standard (for training of locomotive engineers)” while NSB countered that its managers “were very disappointed and think it’s extremely unfortunate that for more than 24 hours (since the engineers claimed they were “thinking new” and putting forth the new proposal) they have … created false hopes that this strike would finally be settled.”

Larsen of Spekter went so far as to say that the engineers had misled passengers and other customers of the railroad. “When we got down to the core of the conflict, it emerged that they still want full control over education and competence for all eternity, inserted into their labour contract or in a special agreement that will not be subject to renegotiation,” Larsen said.

Ringdal dissmissed NSB’s position: “We have an opponent who won’t budge in regards to consideration for safety, and that passengers should get normal train service again.”

More mediation on Thursday
Both sides have been ordered in to another mediation session on Thursday. In the meantime, the strike that has all but shut down the heavily used Østfoldsbanen train line will enter its fourth week. Another six engineers will also be called out on strike on the Sørlandsbanen train line that runs between Oslo and Kristiansand and up to Stavanger, bringing the total of striking engineer to 124.

An estimated 20,000 commuters must continue to battle either heavy traffic on the highway or for a place on board packed buses in order to get to work. Many people have reported that they’re having to spend two- to three hours to get to work, each way.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund