State orders strikers back to work

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State health and labour officials stepped into a two-week strike by health care workers around the country on Tuesday, and ordered the strikers back to work. They acted after health authorities claimed the strike was posing a danger to life and health.

Government officials used what’s called tvungen lønnsnemnd (compulsory arbitration) to end the strike. State Secretary Gina Lund in the Labour Ministry cited “immediate danger to life and health” as the reason for the government action.

Lund said that both sides, the health care employers and the unions, agreed there was no foundation for a settlement or any end to the deadlocked situation that had emerged.

The strike began in late June and spread for the second time this week, meaning that more than 500 workers had walked off the job nationwide. That disrupted health care services at several major hospitals and posed a serious shortage of ambulance drivers, especially in the Oslo area.

Norway has a left-center government led by the Labour Party, which generally has deep respect for strikes and is reluctant to impose compulsory arbitration. In this case, though, Lund said the government felt forced to act.

“The government viewed the situation as serious based on a letter we received from the health authorities (Helsetilsynet),” she said. “The employees have confirmed they will go back to work as soon possible.”

Union leaders said they were “disappointed” and claimed their members were willing to strike “much longer.” They now face accepting a mandatory pay settlement in the autumn.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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