Strikes spread, Opera hit also

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UPDATED: Thousands of municipal workers remain on strike in Norway, and now some performers at the Norwegian Opera have walked off the job, too. Not many, but enough to cancel tonight’s performance and perhaps tomorrow’s ballet as well.

Monday 's performance at the Opera House in Oslo was cancelled, and there were fears Tuesday's ballet would be cancelled as well. PHOTO: Views and News

Members of musicians’ union Musikernes Fellesorganisasjon (MFO) failed to reach agreement with employers’ organization Spekter during the night, meaning that seven singers were pulled out on strike starting today. The Norwegian Opera thus cancelled Monday evening’s performance of  Jorden rundt på 80 dager  (Around the World in 80 Days), which was sold out.

The fate of other performances will be decided on a day-by-day basis, but Tuesday’s performance of the ballet Askepott (Cinderella) was under serious threat. Eleven dancers were expected to strike, which would force cancellation of it as well. Opera officials said all ticket holders will get their money refunded.

“We’re very sorry about the inconvenience and disappointment such a strike means for our audiences,” said Tom Remlov, managing director of the Norwegian Opera & Ballet. He said the state mediator determined that the two sides were too far apart on pay issues, and a strike was therefore “unavoidable.” 

The strike was also affecting several other orchestras and operas around Norway, including the Opera in Kristiansund, symphony orchestras in Stavanger, Trondheim and Kristiansand and the Oslo Philharmonic. The latter’s next concert, with Kent Nagano as guest conductor, was scheduled for June 15 at Oslo’s Opera House.

Remlov said it wasn’t possible to predict how long the strike would last, but claimed “we are of course working hard to find a solution.” Opera officials advised ticket holders to consult the Opera’s website, but as of Monday morning, updates were only available in Norwegian, not English.

Transport strike over, empty shelves to be re-filled
Norwegian transport workers, meanwhile, settled their three-week-old strike and started heading back to work over the weekend, but strikes by local government workers in all major cities except Oslo were expected to spread. Nearly 30,000 more workers were threatening to walk off the job on Wednesday.

Unions were expected to pull another 100 municipal employees in Bærum, just west of Oslo, off the job on Monday morning. Labour union Fagforbundet called it merely an “adjustment” to the number of its members already out on strike. Government employers called it an expansion of the strike.

Around 45,000 teachers, day care center workers, nursing home employees and administrative workers in local townships are already on strike for higher pay. They weren’t satisfied with a pay raise offer of more than 3 percent plus extra funds earmarked for those in lower paid jobs.

The strikes have closed schools and kindergartens, led to short staffing at city-run nursing homes and disrupted everything from garbage collection to municipal bill-paying. Oslo was spared a strike after its employees, who negotiate separately from Norway’s other municipalities, accepted an offer similar to the one turned down elsewhere.

On Wednesday the unions are threatening to pull another 27,000 municipal workers out on strike if no settlement has been reached. With more than 70,000 out on strike, the labour disruption would be the biggest in Norway for many decades.

The transport workers, meanwhile, came to terms with their employers after being on strike since May 15. Around 1,800 truckers and other members of the Transportarbeiderforbundet accepted a wage and benefits offer that also was reported to secure equal pay and the rights of workers in cargo terminals around the country. The unions had demanded that both permanent and temporary employees should receive the same pay and benefits, and now feel their demands were met.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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