Police conflict set to drag on

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Labour negotiations between the Norwegian police and their employer, the state, broke down once again during the night with no settlement in sight. Police turned down a sweetened pay hike of NOK 40,000 (more than USD 6,000) because they’re still resisting new work hour rules.

The state wants to have more control over when police can be ordered to work. The police won’t agree to the new so-called “arbeidstidsbestemmelsene” (roughly, work hour determination) and that means the conflict between police districts all over Norway and the state will continue through the summer.

It also means the current left-center government coalition will soon enter their re-election campaign with no solution to a difficult and highly visible labour conflict. There are concerns the police will start calling in sick or initiating work slowdowns at a time when a rising crime rate puts heavier demand on their services.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget, who’s been quarrelling with the police for months, said the state had nothing more to offer. “With the demands the police themselves are making, we wouldn’t be able to organize police operations,” he said.

He claimed the state’s offer of financial compensation, valued at more than NOK 300 million, marked “one of the biggest shows of support for the police ever.” Storberget defended the government’s position, saying “we put forth a proposal that would have secured police response, more presence and safety for the public.”

Now the new rules will automatically take effect anyway, without the sweetened compensation, from July 1, and union leaders said the public will lose. Police will only be entitled to an eight-hour break between shifts, instead of the standard 11 hours. Talks broke down over how much financial compensation they should receive for the reduced breaks.

The unions and the lawyers claim the new rules violate both EU labour directives and labour conventions to which Norway has agreed.