45,000 now on strike nationwide

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More schools and day care centers closed, nursing home staffing shrunk and local government services were further curtailed Wednesday morning, after Norway’s biggest strike in 30 years got bigger. Transport workers also claimed their strike would continue.

Some unions have settled with public sector employers, but those representing municipal workers in most cities except Oslo decided to expand their strike after several days passed with no progress in their collective bargaining.

In some communities, like Ullensaker northeast of Oslo, nearly all schools are shut down.  Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that one out of every 10 local public sector employee is now on strike.

Nursing homes, most of which are run by local governments in Norway, seemed to be hit the hardest because of short-staffing. In some cases there was only one nurse’s aid on duty for as many as 70 patients, and officials were worried.

Union leaders, however, claimed there was no immediate danger to life or health, a situation which can allow the state government to order strikers back to work. The unions noted that any nursing home that believes life or health is threatened can apply for dispensation from the strike and call workers back.

Also affected by the strike are libraries, garbage collection, administrative operations and various other government services. 

As the strike over higher pay spreads, some local government employers were also issuing notices that other staff may be laid off and entire departments shut down until the strike is over.

Anders Folkestad, leader of of the union known as Unio, said there currently was no contact between the unions. employers or mediators. The head of the employers’ organization KS confirmed that the situation resulted in a deadlock, even though he claimed “we have stretched ourselves very far” to meet the unions’ demands.

Transport workers, meanwhile, said they were furious after a new offer from their employers was publicized before being officially presented to their unions. One union leader called the move “unprofessional” and a “provocation.” They dismissed the possibility of any settlement soon.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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