Building branch goes back to work

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A strike by construction workers ended over the weekend, with both sides saying they hope to build up more cooperation between union members and their employers. All claimed they were “reasonably satisfied” with their wage and benefit settlement.

The strike had shut down hundreds of construction projects all over the country and pulled around 19,000 workers off the job. At issue were pay raises and the gap between those working for minimum wage (often foreign workers in Norway) and average pay rates.

The unions claimed they now have won new mechanisms by which they can regulate minimum hourly rates. The chief union negotiator said the union (Fellesforbundet) had won “a considerable (pay) lift” that will “mean a lot for many.”

Minimum hourly pay rates will be raised nearly 9 percent and up to NOK 159 (about USD 26) per hour by next April. General pay raises were much more modest. The union had likened their campaign for higher minimum pay rates as a fight against “social dumping.”

Employers, though, balked at such a characterization and said that even the earlier minimum rates amounted to annual pay of nearly NOK 300,000 (USD 50,000), “and that can hardly be called social dumping,” according to Ketil Lyng of employers’ organization Byggenæringens Landsforeningen.

Lyng told newspaper Aftenposten that labour negotiations in recent years “haven’t been held in a good climate” but said he and his colleagues will now prefer “to look forward and and build better relations.” Union leaders also claimed they would contribute towards “better cooperation” in the building branch, which is highly vulnerable to financial and economic swings.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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