Farmers demand hefty pay raises

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Norway’s farming organizations presented new demands for state subsidies and protection that once again would give them much higher pay raises than those granted other workers. The farmers claim they deserve bigger raises, to close an alleged income gap.

Norwegian farmers want a lot more subsidy and protection to work their fields. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The organizations, Norsk Bonde- og Småbrukarlag and Norges Bondelag, formally handed their latest demands on Wednesday to the state Ministry of Agriculture, which will return with a counter offer next week. The farmers want NOK 1.45 billion in public funding, with NOK 1.15 billion of that finance directly through the state budget and the rest from consumers.

If approved, the farmers would receive average pay raises of NOK 31,700 per agricultural job, more than triple those granted to most other Norwegians. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) noted that the NOK 1.45 million now demanded is roughly 10 times the amount of financial aid the farmers received last year.

The farmers also seized the opportunity to complain that the government has “been trying for several years to move agricultural policy in the direction of fewer and bigger farms.” Lars Petter Bartnes of Norges Bondelag had to admit that farm income is rising, but he demanded that “it must pay off to use all Norwegian agricultural areas for food production. We can only achieve that goal if we raise income for the small- and medium-sized farms in this year’s agricultural negotiations.”

While both Bartnes and Merete Furuberg of the group representing small farmers claimed they were optimistic and felt they have the will of the Parliament behind them, it’s unlikely their demands will be met. NRK pointed out that their requested pay raise would amount to 9 percent on average, compared to the 2.4 percent sought by some of Norway’s biggest trade union federations in this year’s annual wage talks.

Leif Forsell, who will lead negotiations on behalf of the state and agriculture ministry, noted immediately that “when the melody playing out elsewhere in Norway is ‘moderation,’ this demand isn’t especially harmonious.” The state, led by reform-minded Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale of the Progess Party, will present its counter offer to the farmers on May 5.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund